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Floridians finding outlets to gamble

Jul 23, 2002 4:43 AM

Gambling may be illegal in Florida, but that doesn’t mean Floridians won’t go elsewhere to test the waters.

A Roper Reports survey revealed that 2.32 million Florida residents age 21 or older gambled at a casino last year. The top destinations, according to Harrah’s Entertainment, were Florida Indian Casinos, which attracted 58 percent of all casino trips.

The Gulf Coast casinos accounted for 11 percent, while cruise ships and Las Vegas drew 16 percent of the travels. In the state, 19.8 percent of adults gambled at a casino in 2001.

Gary Loveman, Harrah’s president and CEO, said the Florida numbers show a pent-up demand.

"There are significant gambling dollars being spent out-of-state by Florida players," he said. "If Florida chooses to expand casino gambling opportunities, it could generate needed tax revenues, jobs and capital investment simply by recapturing this spending.

More than 50 million Americans visited a casino last year, according to Harrah’s survey.

Bill rallies in Kentucky

The gambling bill that flopped in last year’s legislative session in Kentucky may have new life this year.

According to a Cincinnati Enquirer story, thoroughbred racetrack owners in the Bluegrass State are worried that an already faltering industry may fall further behind financially with the popularity of Indiana’s 10 riverboat casinos.

The Indiana competition is expected to see increased revenue of 15-to-20 percent when the boats dock. Plus, more than $700 million has been cut from the Kentucky state budget. Without additional revenue, deficits are predicted for the next several years.

Racetrack owners plan to step up lobbying efforts in the next session to push through legislation that would allow video gambling at the tracks.

Turfway Park President Bob Elliston said he plans to continue pushing for legislation to allow him to build a $125 million gambling hall and hotel just 12 miles from Cincinnati.

New Bridgeport pitch

The Golden Hill Paugussetts continued drumming up support for federal recognition and a planned casino in Bridgeport, Conn.

"It’s one of the few things that can help Bridgeport," Richard Matthies told the Connecticut Post following an informal public session in Bridgeport. "I don’t see anything else coming down the pike."