Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Why We Need Gaming In South Florida

The lethargic economy of the last few years has affected many, and hit minorities disproportionately.  Both in Florida and nationwide, the unemployment rate of African Americans and Hispanics remains significantly higher than the national average.  The reasons for such a gap vary, but the fact remains:  many need work, and jobs are scarce.

The plan to build three destination resorts with gaming in Miami-Dade and Broward counties could go a long way in putting a dent into unemployment in South Florida.  There are several reasons I would encourage my legislators to support this legislation.

Given the weak economy we need to look at all avenues to create jobs. This plan has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs, including construction, retail sales and hotel management. Many of these jobs will go to minority workers, who are well-represented in the gaming industry. A 2007 study estimated that minorities make up fully half of all employees in the industry.

In addition to the direct economic benefits, destination resort would attract an estimated one million new visitors to the area each year. The increase in tourism and convention business would provide a needed boost to all types of local businesses. 

The other side of the coin is the improved regulatory structure the plan would put in place. Florida already has gaming of all types, but right now it’s not being managed efficiently or reviewed appropriately. Increased oversight is a good thing, and will weed out predatory practices. I would much rather see upscale gaming options that create jobs and attract visitors as opposed to more internet cafes and lottery sales in poor neighborhoods.

This is not an endorsement for free-for-all gambling all over Florida, but an observation that reforming the system and building destination resorts with gaming in high-demand areas that serve as tourist hubs could spur job creation that benefits those most harmed by our stagnant economy.  

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