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Religious groups rally against Florida brand-changing casino proposal

by Dara Kam | November 1st, 2011

A coalition of religious and anti-gambling groups are uniting to put pressure on lawmakers in the hopes of killing a proposal that would allow up to three Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida.

The Florida Catholic Conference, the Florida Baptist Convention, Florida Family Action and Florida Casino Watch held a press conference Tuesday morning to declare war on the casino proposal, sponsored by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican whose district is dominated by Palm Beach County, and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami.

Representatives of the religious groups objected to the “destination resorts” in part because, they said, gambling victimizes the poor and is accompanied by social costs such as addiction, prostitution, bankruptcy and suicide.

“This is the big Kahuna that’s been brought to the table to us. And we’ve shown up to say, ‘no thanks,’” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, a former head of the state Christian Coalition. He called the casino plan “the biggest brand change” in Florida.

Florida Family Action head John Stemberger, who also heads FFA’s parent group Florida Family Policy Council, named defeating the proposal his organization’s chief objective during the legislative session that ends early in March.

Stemberger plans to use the Internet to expose lawmakers’ votes on the issue with a “Wall of Fame” and “Wall of Shame” and is asking legislators to sign an anti-gambling pledge. Stemberger achieved success with a similar campaign in 2008 when he shepherded a ballot initiative onto the ballot and into the state constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage.

“In summary, we will not sit back idly as the gambling industry attempts to buy out Florida and her elected officials with the corrupting influence of the gaming money that is floating around Tallahassee like a bad flu bug,” Stemberger said.

Florida Baptist Convention lobbyist Bill Bunkley called the group’s task “a classic David and Goliath matchup” because of the cadre of lobbyists and spending potential bidders, including Genting Malaysia and Las Vegas Sands, have lined up to push the issue.

Proponents of the measure say it will bring fast cash into the Sunshine State, now facing another $2 billion deficit as lawmakers prepare to craft next year’s budget. The proposals (SB 710, HB 487) would require casino operators to pledge to spend $2 billion over five years on construction. Genting estimates its new casino, planned on Biscayne Bay, could reap the state up to $600 million per year and create 100,000 jobs.

But Baxley said the casinos aren’t worth it.

“Some things you don’t do no matter how broke you are. You just don’t do them,” he said.

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5 Responses to “Religious groups rally against Florida brand-changing casino proposal”

  1. Downtown Danny Says:

    These phony people, many of whom gamble every weekend on the golfcourse winning or losing thousands, are the same who will rail about “freedom” and join the tea party.
    Adults can make their own decisions about whether to gamble on the lottery or in a casino, or which church to go to or not to go to, the days of following a priest into the flames are over.
    These people want poverty instead of prosperity if it does not meet their moral standard that they want to shove down everyone’s throat – whether its forcing a poor black girl to give birth to a child she can’t afford to feed or stopping good paying full benefit jobs from coming to our residents via casinos the bible thumpers are there to keep everyone poor but the church coffers.

  2. MRY Says:

    Bring on the casinos and get rid of these garbage gambling parlors. If we are going to have gambling – which we do – lets get real gambling and tax it. This crap we have now is a joke.

  3. Jim Bowden Says:

    These so called religious groups are a sham. They are all paid-off and some of them are fake groups that have been created to defeat the gaming bill. These groups are even working with the Seminole tribe.

  4. Mary Says:

    Funny how quickly certain groups don’t preach freedom, but stop at people’s right to choose. I heard that John Stemberger uses a gay site prostitute called rent boy, but loves to hate on gays. These groups and people are most likely paid by Disney to control Florida. Florida is a big state, let the Disney nuts stay up north and leave South Florida alone! I just did a search for the Genting Casino and saw they are very beautiful. Let’s build them and starve out Disney!

  5. Jon Cleary Says:

    Typical response from a bunch of hypocrites. I have a sure fire way of helping this state and nation with the economic crisis. Let’s start taxing these churches and so called religious groups who hide behind their tax shelters. These groups are flush with cash and should be paying something. Come on, help your fellow man and pay your fair share you God fearing christians. All these groups do is pray for you on Sunday then turn around and screw you on Monday.

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