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Pari-mutuel's lobbying clout is major hurdle for resort casino promoters

The push to bring mega-casinos to South Florida faces a host of unknowns: would local voters approve the proposal in a public referendum? Will state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott even allow the issue to get that far?

But another, quite-crucial question also needs to be asked: Will horse and dog tracks just kill the entire thing?

Those often-struggling tracks, along with faded jai-alai frontons, make up Florida’s pari-mutuel industry — a group that holds considerable sway over gambling politics in Florida’s state capital. While international casino congomerates are lobbying heavily for large-scale “destination resorts,” and the highly-successful Seminole Tribe is also working the power corridors of Tallahassee, it is pari-mutuels — the least profitable of the bunch — that usually have the most access to lawmakers’ ears.

“Got their hand out anytime we’re in session,” state Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, said of the pari-mutuels. “It’s a committee of greed.”

Nevertheless, Jones, in most instances, is a supporter of pari-mutuels — businesses that trace their Florida roots as far back as the 1930s. It’s that lengthy Florida history, as well as the industry’s tens of thousands of employees, that pari-mutuels say makes them worthy of special protection. Full story here.

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