A group aimed at opposing the emergence of new casinos in Florida put its talking points into a slick new video documentary that premiered Wednesday for legislators at a Tallahassee theater.
No Casinos, the Orlando-based group which produced the movie-quality video, invited legislators and lobbyists to attend a showing of the video at the Tallahassee IMAX during the Legislature's committee week, complete with complimentary popcorn and sodas. In attendance were dozens of lobbyists, community members and a handful of legislators, most of whom are perceived to be opposed to the expansion of casinos.
Legislators are attempting to embark on a rewrite of Florida's hole-ridden gambling laws and decide for the third time whether to allow Las Vegas-style casinos into South Florida, where gambling giants Las Vegas Sands, Genting and Wynn Casinos are eager to set up shop.
The video begins with a brief history of gambling in Florida, including an interview with Florida historian Gary Mormino, and tracking many of the themes we wrote about in this story.
At the turn of the century, gaming had turned Miami "into a refuge for some of the country's most powerful profiteers,'' Mormino said. In time, organized gambling expanded to Tampa, where the city earned the nickname "Little Chicago" and gambling became a "source of tremendous corruption,'' he said.
The narrative then quickly moves to the slots initiative, and the alleged promise that "slots will not spread." The bulk of the video is then focusing on dissecting the impact of gambling on New Jersey's Atlantic City, with repeated warnings that the city's ill-fated dependence on the industry could be Florida's future. Among the claims about the fall of Atlantic City: 200 restaurants gone out of business, no grocery stories in the city proper, violent crime more than 500 percent higher, city revenues have fallen for the seventh straight year, and the city is now one third of the population it was 40 years ago.
Miami's Frank Nero, the former head of the Beacon Council and former councilman and mayor of North Plainfield New Jersey, gets prominent attention for his outspoken opposition to Genting's proposal to bring destination resorts to Miami.
Former state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami, who works with No Casinos, is featured offering this observation about the industry: "corrupting a state legislator is simply the cost of doing business."
The video also includes some chilling interviews from J.T. Mathias, identified only as a "former casino employee" who talks about how the casino could track people, and calculate their lifetime losses, and an interview from a former gambling addict who talks about her failed attempt at suicide.
Among the legislators in attendance: Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who is featured prominently in the film; Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach; Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland; Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby; Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole; Rep. Mark Danish, D-Tampa; Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne; Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Orlando, and Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami.
Among the lobbying elite in the audience: former Lietenant Gov. Wayne Mixson, former Democratic House Speaker James Harold Thompson and former Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher.
The movie will be showing in Jacksonville, Pensacola, Tampa, Orlando and Miami said John Sowinski, president of No Casinos.