Casino expansion major topic for upcoming Florida Gaming Congress

With elections approaching next month and plenty of legislative opposition on both sides of the matter, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declined to make any moves in regards to expanding the casino gambling industry in the Sunshine State. As such, he’ll have time to gather the opinions of operators, regulators, fellow politicians and anti-gambling activists in November as the Florida Gaming Congress is set to convene a few weeks from now, with the topic of expansion a key feature.

The Florida Gaming Congress is scheduled for November 10th and 11th at the Hyatt Regency in Miami, FL. A reception and opening ceremonies will take place on Monday evening, followed by a full day of discussion panels on Tuesday. From 3:00-4:00pm, a panel of experts will debate the issue of whether casino expansion is the right move for Florida.

For the last item on the day’s agenda, titled ‘Total Gambling’, the Florida Gaming Congress poses the following questions, “Does Florida really need more gambling? Does it make sense for the state to have an overarching policy on gaming? To what extent do – or should – the leaders in these industries cooperate? What is the will of state or local law enforcement to crack down on illegal gambling?”

Moderated by gaming expert and staff writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Nick Sortal, the Total Gambling session hosts a 5-figure panel of directors, investors and politicians. They include the President of the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, John Fontana, the Executive Director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, Pat Fowler, former Secretary of the Florida State Lottery, David Griffin, State Representative Jim Waldman, and shareholder Daniel Wallach of Becker and Poliakoff.

Another panel discussion, entitled ‘Legislative Update: What’s Next for Florida?’, is scheduled to occur first, between 1:40-2:30pm on the 11th. A multitude of topics are on the menu, from destination casino resorts and tribal compacts, to a debate on economic benefits versus social impacts of gambling. While the subject of potential online casino expansion in Florida is not specifically listed, one of the key speakers on the panel is Andy Abboud.

Mr. Abboud is the Senior VP of Government Relations for the Las Vegas Sands Corp, a company headed by billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. It’s no secret that Adelson is on a crusade to get online gambling banned across the United States, potentially evaporating the currently regulated markets in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey. Adelson has sent Abboud to multiple conferences around the US to speak out against the regulation of online casino and poker games on state and federal levels. Thus it would not be surprising if the subject arises at the Florida Gaming Congress.

Whether Florida is prepared to enter the realm of online gambling may be a moot question for state politicians at this moment – again, it’s an election year, after all – but for commercial and tribal casino organizations, it’s a subject of great importance. The three states that legalized online casino and/or poker games last year haven’t exactly reaped significant fiscal benefits to this point, but as iGaming expands with probable interstate compacts allowing shared payer pools across regulated state borders, Florida could very well be a prime destination for the legalization of online gambling.