By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.
Florida is addicted to gambling!
No matter how you spin it, the state of Florida is in the business of making poor households poorer in order to raise revenue through expansion of gambling.
Just look at the Florida Lottery.
In an effort to increase revenues, the Lottery appears to be targeting poor households and minority communities with scratch-off games designed to hook players into buying more and more tickets.
According to a Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis last year:
“Overall, sales of scratch-off games rose from $2 billion in 2010 to $3.7 billion last year. About $832 million of the increase…came from high-poverty areas…Adults in high-poverty areas spent an average of $385 in 2015 on scratch-off tickets, a 57 percent increase over 2010. Brisk scratch-off sales did not dramatically boost the amount of money raised for education, which the Lottery touts as one of its chief benefits. Sales in impoverished neighborhoods swelled as the Lottery increased its advertising to minorities.
What is glaring to us, Owners of Black media is; “Where was this advertising increased and placed with Black owned media? As the publisher of the Westside Gazette and the president of the Florida Association of Black Owned Media, we did not see an increase in advertising dollars from the Florida Lottery or Florida gambling industry: the Seminoles and pari-mutuels!
The lesson here should not be lost.
The scratch-off games are, in effect, the equivalent of high-stakes casino slot machines. The Sentinel analysis shows that revenue from these games rose three times as fast in high-poverty areas than in other areas from 2010 to 2015.
This is what happens when state government gets hooked on gambling proceeds. It turns into any other casino operator seeking to maximize revenue. It seems to be paying off. Lottery sales skyrocketed to $6.2 billion last year up over $400 million from 2015.
We often talk about “gambling creep” in terms of an industry relentlessly seeking to expand with new outlets, new games and ever more sophisticated slot machines designed to create “gambling fever.”
In that regard, the Lottery is not the only culprit in the move to expand gambling.
A massive proposal has been introduced in the Florida Senate which would:
- Allow slot machines in eight counties where voters have approved them.
- Permit South Florida pari-mutuels to offer blackjack card games.
- Set up a regulatory structure for “fantasy” sports.
- Provide for the sale of lottery tickets at point-of-sale terminals such as gas pumps by credit, debit or other similar charge cards—to the detriment of low and middle income Floridians.
- Approves a new compact between the Seminoles and the state, with conditions, and allows the tribe to conduct craps and roulette games and offer blackjack at all of its ca so, who wins in this gambling grab?
The well-heeled and well represented Florida gambling industry: the Seminoles, the lottery and pari-mutuels! They will suck hard-earned dollars of local residents who can’t afford to lose them—dollars that would be spent on food, shelter and clothing will instead end up as profits for gambling kingpins.
And who loses?
You guessed it: low and middle income Floridians of all races, Black-owned businesses, including Black-owned media, and their communities.
The question is: “Who is looking out for their interests in Tallahassee?”