Anti-gambling groups speaking out ahead of special session

With Florida lawmakers heading to Tallahassee on Monday to start a special session, the Senate and House on Friday released bills that would overhaul Florida’s gambling industry, including joining other states in allowing sports betting.

The bills, in part, would carry out a 30-year gambling deal announced last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The deal, known as a gambling compact, would bring in about $2.5 billion for the state over the next five years while putting the tribe in charge of sports betting.

But the deal and the bills also would lead to changes in the state’s pari-mutuel industry, which has seen its focus shift over the years to operating card rooms and, in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, slot machines. president John Sowinski said it’s not a good idea for Florida or the state’s family-friendly image.  

"Thirty-eight of those who call the hotline that Florida has for the compulsive gambling admit to committing crimes in order to support their habits.  That means stealing from the workplace or family members writing bad checks or even you know more severe crime than that," Sowinski said.

RELATED: DeSantis reaches agreement with Seminole Tribe to expand gambling in Florida

This deal is slated to make the state a minimum of $500 million a year.  Sowinski argues those are not new dollars.  

"Studies conclude, including those of the state's own revenue estimators that a dollar spent on gambling whether it be online or in a casino is $1 not spent somewhere else in our economy at a restaurant at a bar at a movie theater," he added. 

The one thing some lawmakers have told FOX 35 News is that they oppose the sports betting aspect of it.  A server placed on Seminole Tribe property would compute bets made from anywhere in the state on a cellphone.   Sowinski argues that would make it next to impossible to make sure only individuals 18 and older are placing the bets.  

"England, where we look at it, over half of 11 to 16-year-olds, have a betting app on their phones.  Almost 10% of them have used them within the last week, according to the survey that was done.  It becomes a problem that every parent would have to worry about," Sowinski said. 

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