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House leadership expresses skepticism about promises over casino bills

Florida's current and incoming House leaders are no big fans of gambling and, while they are not willing to voice clear opposition to it (in the midst of a steady stream of campaign cash from the gambling industry going to GOP political campaigns), their voices against it are getting louder.

House Speaker Dean Cannon used his strongest language yet Wednesday at a pre-session briefing with reporters, sponsored by the Associated Press. "I am philosophically opposed to the expansion of gaming in our state,'' he said. He said he was "very skeptical" that destination resort casinos will reduce gaming in Florida. "I have yet to see a concrete plan to accomplish it. And it would be premature for me to weigh in aggressively on the bill especially when we haven’t seen it work through the committee process."

Cannon's successor, Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wilton Manors, he is also skeptical.

"It's not just about casino gambling, it's gambling itself," Weatherford said. "I'm not proud of the fact that we're the third or fourth largest gaming state in the country."

"I've always had concerns about the expansion of gaming, and I still have those concerns," Weatherford said. "I've kept an open mind about it. I'm allowing the stakeholders on both sides to get their arguments out" but "someone would really have to show some overwhelming evidence as to how it makes Florida a better place."

He said the explosion of strip-mall based Internet cafes "are a good example of gaming gone awry. It's a matter of, what are you injecting into the DNA of Florida? When you think about what makes up the state of Florida, when you think about the promise we're selling of what Florida is, does injecting destination casinos into the DNA of Florida make sense? I think that's the question we're all asking ourselves."
 
Weatherford played an important role late in the 2011 session in the House's refusal to accept a pro-gambling amendment that was championed in the Senate by Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, that would have reduced taxes on coin-arcade amusement machines at a pari-mutuel track in Jacksonville.
 
Weatherford's father-in-law, former House Speaker Allan Bense, R-Panama City, is former chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the casino proposal.

-- Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.

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TEHO

WARNING: You are going to get a really BIG surprise if Miami or South Florida gets those BIG casinos. I was actually in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City, NJ working for the casinos during the 1970's when the Las Vegas casino executives and the New Jersey politicians & New Jersey gaming commission made a lot of BIG "promises" to the people about improving the local economy and housing. Guess what ? There is still high unemployment and slums in Atlantic City today ( 35+ years later ) while those million dollar casinos are making a lot of money. Please do not make the same mistake in Miami or South Florida ! Please contact all your public government officials and vote NO against these BIG casinos !

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