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The Gaming Issue in Palm Beach County, Florida

Palm Beach County wants to have a bigger presence in Florida's growing gaming industry. State law already permits slot machines and other forms of expanded gaming in neighboring Broward County and the Palm Beach County Commission wants the same chances for local gaming establishments such as the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach.

The county also opposes the newest version of Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed gaming agreement with the Seminole Tribe, which would permit expanded gaming at Seminole casino facilities without permitting similar chances in Palm Beach County and other pari-mutuel facilities in South Florida.

Commission Chairman Burt Aaronson said on December 5th, 2009 that to place Palm Beach Kennel Club at a disadvantage is a big crime. Gaming critics argue that expanded gaming can lead to an increase in crime rate and push gambling addiction that can worsen the financial situation for those individuals who are already struggling. But from the state lottery to Seminole casino facilities, gambling is growing rapidly in Florida.

Aaronson said that since it is already here, residents in Palm Beach County should benefit from the new employment opportunities, business and tax revenues gaming could bring. County commissioners see gambling and the Palm Beach Kennel Club as an economic lifeline for the area near Palm Beach International Airport.

The Palm Beach Kennel Club, with more than six hundred employees, attracts more than 750,000 visitors a year. Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, a former state legislator, said that it is very important to them.

Taylor also sees expanded gambling at the Palm Beach Kennel Club as an option to boost jobs. If state officials permits more gambling, Aaronson envisions having a casino facility near Lake Okeechobee to help provide needed jobs for Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee, where the unemployment rate is at 40%.

Beyond the gambling cruises on day tours to nowhere, Aaronson suggested permitting gambling on ships that stay anchored at the coast. Last year, the Florida Legislature failed to pass a measure to permit slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club and other pari-mutuel facilities, a measure Palm Beach County hopes to push for this year. Pushing to expand gaming is among the goals approved for the County Commission's team of hired gaming lobbyists.

The county is paying $230,000 for seven lobbying groups next year to lobby for state issues ranging from gaming to transportation. County commissioners also plan to spend more time in Tallahassee to lobby for expanded gambling and other important local issues in person.

The Legislature so far has blocked Crist's attempt to reach a new deal with the Seminole Tribe, because the proposed agreement does not permit similar new games at pari-mutuels.

Last month, the House committee on Seminole gaming suggested permitting voters to decide whether to allow expanded gaming across Florida.


Monday, 21 December 2009
Marissa Patterson