Live in Florida? Thinking of visiting? You might want to pay attention to what transpires in 2015 because the casino law could be changing for the better. Gambling expansion appears to be on the table for this legislative year.
That’s got casino players happy. That’s got Las Vegas casino companies exciting. And it’s got developers in the state pretty stoked. But one man is angry. No, not Sheldon Adelson, though you might assume so since the Las Vegas Sands casino titan is trying to put a stop to online gambling.
No, Adelson wants to build a casino in Vegas. But he’s having a hard time getting his way. One man stands in his way. Or should I say rodent? I’m talking, of course, about Mickey Mouse.
Under current Florida law, only eight Indian casinos are permitted to exist in the state. They offer pretty much every game you can find in Las Vegas, with the exception of craps and roulette. There’s also a total of 31 pari-mutuel gambling establishments in the state.
Lawmakers, and casino resort companies in particular, want the state to allow up to three resort casinos in Southern Florida. These properties would be authorized to allow the same games you’d find in Vegas, including the ones that are not currently offered.
But Mickey Mouse will have none of it. Walt Disney World has over 700,000 square feet of convention space at its Florida resort properties. Casinos would arguably eat into this part of their business and that seems to be what Disney is really worried about.
Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the rest of the crew argue that gambling is bad for the state’s image. After all, the state is kid-friendly, and a plethora of new casinos dotting the map would allegedly hurt the state’s positioning as a family-friendly destination.
I don’t buy this one bit. I’ve driven to Florida before. You know what the most popular billboards on the highway are for? Theme parks like Disney and Universal, or time-share companies promoting them. And you know what’s the next most popular establishment featured on billboards? Strip clubs.
If Disney really cared about the state’s image, they would have lobbied to have those removed. But they didn’t.
We’ll be watching Florida to see what transpires in 2015. Walt Disney is ridiculously influential over what happens in the sate, so we’re not so hopeful. Perhaps Disney will propose online gambling in lieu of land-based gambling and turn the tables on Adelson? I’ll keep you posted.