Questionable AGA report detailing value of Florida Casinos under fire

There are two distinct sides in the debate about gambling – those who are all for it, based on the revenue it generates for federal, state and local taxes, and those who are completely against it due to economic and social impacts. The American Gaming Association (AGA) is one of the largest organizations that supports gambling expansion, and after releasing two highly contradictory reports regarding the evaluation of Florida casinos, those on the other side of the fence are beyond angry.

In September of 2014, the AGA published a statistical research report that indicated the value of Florida casinos. Dated September 30th, it claimed that the 7 Florida casinos operating in the state were generating an estimated $467.6 million in revenue, which converted to “$163.7 million in tax revenue to education and numerous other essential programs in the state.” The report further appraised the economic value for local citizens, employing 3,202 workers who received a cumulative payroll of $105.9 million (see image 1 below).

Then, in a new report dated December 8, 2014 – little more than two months after the previous data was published – the AGA has issued a whole new set of fiscal statistics revolving around the same Florida casinos. This time around, all of the figures were essentially doubled. According to the report, the casinos now employ 7,474 workers, with a payroll of $325.5 million. “Economic activity” more than doubled to $1.2 billion annually at those same 7 Florida casino, generating “$358.9 million in federal, state and local tax revenues – including $163.7 million in gaming taxes” (see image 2 below).

The significance of the contradictory reports comes in the face of the 2015 legislative session, where committee meeting schedule to include debates over gambling will convene the week of January 5, 2015. The AGA is obviously in favor of expanding Florida casinos, but a number of opponents are not on the same page.

John Sowinksi is the President of No Casinos, Inc., and anti-gambling coalition based in Orlando. Commenting on the AGA’s latest publication, Sowinski reasoned that, “the first set of numbers wasn’t impressive enough so they cooked up another set. Maybe if they go back a third time, they’ll find the $500 million that South Florida casinos promised our schools every year,” he quipped. “Nobody else has been able to find it.”

Sowinski said No Casinos, Inc. is trying to prevent the same economic downfall that has occurred recently in New Jersey. Back in August, the AGA said of Atlantic City, “it’s important to no to forget the truly significant contributions gaming has made”. But Sowinski pointed out how the AGA conveniently neglected to mention Atlantic City’s 25% poverty and 11% unemployment rates, or the fact that the unfulfilled local tax burden of casinos was shifted to residents.

“With truly significant contributors like that,” Sowinski sarcastically rationalized, “who needs enemies.”