Florida Chamber’s Mark Wilson Testifies Against Expansion of Gambling

By: Edie Ousley

Urges Lawmakers to Stay Focused on High-Wage, High-Skill Jobs

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (March 26, 2015) – Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson today delivered the below remarks opposing the expansion of Las Vegas-style casino gambling to the House Regulatory Affairs Committee during a workshop on gambling legislation.

“Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for your time this morning, and for listening to all sides. Leader Young, thank you for putting this discussion in play. I’m Mark Wilson, President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

“At the Florida Chamber, our focus is to make Florida more competitive in the short term, and to help secure Florida’s future over the long term.

“For more than 20 years, the Florida Chamber has opposed the expansion of Las Vegas-style gambling. Florida already has limited gambling; residents and visitors can already gamble. We’re not arguing to do away with all gambling in Florida, we’re here to oppose the EXPANSION of Las Vegas-style gambling.

“We believe Florida should direct its focus on creating high-wage, high-skill jobs – more engineers…more manufacturers…not more blackjack dealers.

“When it comes to Florida’s economy, everyone knows the news is good.

“The debate over the expansion of gambling sometimes takes focus away from important competitiveness issues.

“You have already eliminated or improved nearly 3,000 regulations. You’ve lowered taxes nearly 40 times, and you are working on more. Your education reforms are working. And you’ve passed comprehensive water policy.

“Florida is growing by over 800 new residents each day. In fact, we estimate we’ll add 280,000 new residents and 250,000 new jobs this year.

“So here’s the bottom line…Florida doesn’t need Las Vegas-style casinos. The truth is, the big foreign and out-of-state casinos need Florida.

“Florida’s brand is known around the world. We’re known as a family-friendly place to visit, and now we’re known for our jobs and economic opportunity.

“Now is not the time to change course.

“There have been plenty of studies on gambling – with a CENTRAL study coming from the gambling industry. It says that gambling won’t work in locations with an already established tourism market like Florida.

“When casinos were introduced to Atlantic City, 40 percent of restaurants and approximately 30 percent of retail shut down.  Nevada — with all of its casinos – has led the nation in unemployment, foreclosures, violent crime, and personal bankruptcy

“When out-of-state and foreign casino operators brought their expansion proposals to Florida a few years ago, the Florida Chamber was the first statewide organization to come out against their efforts.

“Since then, many others have joined the Florida Chamber in opposing the expansion of gambling, including:

  • The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association,
  • The Florida Retail Federation,
  • The Florida Sheriff’s Association,
  • Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi,
  • Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater,
  • Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and
  • Newspaper editorial boards across Florida…

“As I said, Florida is on the right track. We don’t need the Las Vegas-style casinos industry, they need Florida.

“The best way to help secure Florida’s future is to stay the course, and don’t bet Florida’s future on a gimmick that has never worked in an already established market like Florida.

“Members, I’ve been advocating for job creation and economic development for decades.

“I’ve not ever seen a single economic development plan that suggests gambling is a good way to go.

“I would encourage you to protect Florida from the expansion of Las Vegas-style gambling.

“Again, thank you for helping us secure Florida’s future.”

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