In the face of widespread legislative opposition to the $3 billion gambling deal signed by Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe, the Florida Chamber conducted a statewide poll over the holidays that clearly shows that most Floridians have no idea about the issue but, when seeded with many unchecked claims, respondents overwhelmingly support it.
The compact, signed by Scott in December, would give the tribe the exclusive right to operate craps and roulette at its seven casinos and have partial exclusivity over the right to play blackjack in return for revenue sharing. But because the Legislature must approve the compact, and because of pushback from competing gaming interests, the issue will likely be one of the most challenging facing lawmakers in the session that begins on Tuesday.
The Florida Chamber, whose roster of paid members includes the Seminole Tribe, conducted a statewide poll Dec. 28-30. The chamber won't tell us if it's a poll for hire but the press release accompanying the poll emphasized the fact that those who know about the compact support it.
One thing is certain: most people know nothing about the gaming compact. At least 51 percent didn't know if the tribe had kept its agreement "to provide a minimum of $1 billion over five years in revenue to the state" and 63 percent knew nothing about the 20-year deal Scott just signed with the tribe, according to the poll by Public Opinion Strategies.
When pollsters pushed voters with information, the support then emerged. For example, 80 percent liked the claim that if the compact is approved it will save 3,500 blackjack related jobs; 74 percent liked the claim that the tribe commits to giving the state $3 billion over seven years "three times more than the prior compact guarantee of $1 billion."
Other claims were predictably popular: "the Seminole Tribe has agreed to invest more than $1.8 billion dollars in improving its entertainment facilities, creating more than 15,000 new jobs in the state" and "this agreement not only creates a cap on the amount of gaming that can be offered by the Seminole Tribe, but it also empowers the legislature to limit the expansion of other gaming across the state."
While the revenue raised is guaranteed in the compact, there are no enforcement provisions that ensure the jobs will emerge or the investment will be completed, and the pollsters made no effort to explain that. However, after the push questions, 75 percent of the 700 responding said they would approve of the Legislature signing the compact and 20 percent said they would not. In Miami Dade and Broward, the support surged from 33 percent before the claims were spelled out, to 73 percent. In Tampa, the support grew from 38 percent before the claims, to 74 percent afterward.
Another of the key findings is that 53 percent of those polled believe the state should "keep the number of gambling opportunities about the same" while 27 percent want to expand gambling and 19 percent want to reduce gambling.
When asked about whether the current gaming compact is good or bad, people are also rather ambivalent with 53 percent saying it is "somewhere in between."
Here are the crosstabs. Here are the top lines. Here's is the summary.