After a flurry of business-focused trade groups have come out both for and against the casino resort gambling legislation, Florida's National Federation of Independent Business has decided to remain neutral--citing a poll that has small business owners split on the issue.
The NFIB's poll showed found that 49 percent of small business owners in the state favored the proposal to create three destination resorts in South Florida, and 40 percent were against it. However, there were more respondents who"strongly oppose" the proposal (32 percent) than those who "strongly favor" it (27 percent).
NFIB/Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said the group would need a much higher consensus in order to jump off the fence of neutrality.
"We have rigid bylaws by which we take policy positions and we would need a much stronger result than that to become advocates of this issue," he said.
The poll of 400 business owners was conducted by TelOpinion Research in late December.
Unlike the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Florida Retail Federation, which are opposing the bill, in part, because new mega-resorts would "cannibalize" existing businesses, NFIB/Florida's poll shows that small business owners don't feel that way. Asked whether a new gaming facility would put local businesses out of business or help create new opportunities for the business, 58 percent of business owners said the latter. Only 20 percent feared being put out of business.
"My members are not afraid of cannibalization," said Herrle. "They recognize it as part and parcel of the capitalism free enterprise process. One man's cannibal is another man's business opportunity."
So far, business groups are split on the issue, which could create more than 100,000 jobs but also potentially threaten existing businesses. Here's a line-up of some of the trade groups that have taken a position on the gambling bill.
In Favor: Associated Industries of Florida, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Latin Builders Association.
Opposed: Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Retail Federation and Florida Restaurants and Lodging Association.
Describing gaming as "dessert" that should take the backstage to more pressing business issues, NFIB laid out its list of "vegetables," priorities that policymakers should tackle first. NFIB's priorities are:
1. Relieve the unnecessarily high workers’ comp rates small businesses are facing by supporting efforts to cap the amount doctors can charge for directly dispensing prescription drugs
2. Ease the load of continually rising unemployment tax rates by supporting efforts to reconfigure the state system and reduce unemployment compensation fraud
3. Reform harmful and ambiguous “bad faith” laws to stop trial lawyers from filing needless lawsuits and claims that inflict rising insurance premiums on business owners
4. Lower taxes for small business owners by raising the tangible personal property tax exemption, which would eliminate the burdensome tax completely for the majority of small businesses