I think we can all agree that it’s difficult to approve or disapprove of something that we know very little about. Apparently that was the situation among voters in Florida when asked how they felt about the new State Tribal Gaming Compact recently agreed upon between Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe.
The agreement for a new compact was reach shortly before the holidays, followed soon after by a Florida gambling poll designed to weigh the opinion of the public. The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, from December 28-30, harvesting the responses of 700 adult Floridians
As it turns out, not too many voters were up to date on the previous 5-year compact that expired earlier this year, and far fewer had any idea that a new contract had been drafted, or what it entailed.
Before giving respondents the finer details of the new State Tribal Gaming Compact – one that will be presented to the State Legislature for approval in the very near future – the majority were uncertain of its benefits.
Initial Opinion of Florida Gambling Compact
“Based, on what you have seen, read or heard about this new agreement”, asked the gambling poll (note that only 13% of respondents had even heard of it), 37% supported the compact in some capacity (9% ‘strongly’, 28% ‘somewhat’), while 27% opposed it (13% ‘strongly’, 14% ‘somewhat’). Another 35% drew no conclusion.
Then, the pollsters were provided more information – a lot more information.
Details of the Compact Provided
Respondents heard that the compact, if approved:
- “…immediately saves 3,500 blackjack related jobs at the Seminole Tribe’s Florida casinos.”
- “The Seminole Tribe commits to providing the state a minimum of $3 billion over seven years in revenue, three times more than the prior compact guarantee of $1 billion.”
- “…the Seminole Tribe has agreed to invest more than [$1.8 billion] in improving its entertainment facilities, creating more than 15,000 new jobs…”
- “The Seminole Tribe is allowed to offer new games such as craps and roulette in all of its casinos and to offer blackjack at the two casinos that were not covered by the previous agreement.”
- “creates a cap on the amount of gaming that can be offered by the Seminole Tribe… empowers the legislature to limit the expansion of other gaming across the state.”
- “…substantially increases funding and hours for oversight of the Seminole Tribe’s gaming activities by the State Compliance Agency.”
Each of those points received anywhere from 58% to 80% support from respondents.
Support for State Tribal Compact Skyrockets
With the details laid out, pollsters then asked, “Now that you have heard the provisions” of the Florida gambling compact, “do you believe the State Legislature should approve or disapprove of this agreement?”
The response was overwhelming, with a total of 75% approving, and only 20% disapproving.
Opposition says “Expansion” Topic was Missing
While the Florida gambling poll seems to have revealed a great deal of voter influence for legislators to approve the new compact, some say their support of the agreement is based on misconceptions.
Before asking any direct questions about the new or old compact between the State and Seminole Tribe, respondents were asked how they felt about Florida’s gambling industry, at present. 27% were in favor of expansion, 19% in favor of reduction, and 53% preferred to “keep the number of gambling opportunities about the same”.
John Sowinski, Presidents of the anti-gambling expansion organization, No Casinos, said, “The poll did not ask voters how they felt about expansions of gambling that the compact would allow throughout Florida, including to introduction of slot machines outside of tribal properties.
“But what the poll did find,” Sowinski continued, “is that 72 percent of Floridians don’t want gambling expanded, which is exactly what the proposed compact does.”
Support for Compact from Unlikely Source
Interestingly enough, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which commissioned the poll, does support the new compact. Historically, the Chamber has opposed any Florida gambling expansion, but President Mark Wilson called this new agreement “the best deal for our state”, saying it will help Florida remain a “family-friendly” destination for tourists.
In a telephone press conference, Wilson said, “Voters also agree that the Seminole compact presents Florida with the most reasonable path forward toward controlling gaming operations here in Florida.”