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Monday, March 07, 2005

Slot Tease

- Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the day voters in two south Florida counties will decide the fate of slots at the 7 pari-mutuel venues there. Kind of. Even if the voters approve, which is expected even though the anti-slots team has engineered a last minute push, a lot about the fate of the machines are unknown because then the state Legislature would have to hammer out crucial details such as the tax rate, as well as the basic question of when they will be operable.

While the local pari-mutuel owners want the machines to operate year-round and as many hours of the day as possible, the Legislature could decide to limit the operation only to when there is live racing or jai-alai - a plan that some pari-mutuels say will not provide incentive for them to install the machines. For instance, Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach would be able to operate slots only fewer than four months a year. [Sun-Sentinal, via Newsday]
In an op-ed column in the Miami Herald worth reading no matter how you stand on the issue (yeah, I know, you have to register for this site as you do for many newspaper websites; I try to avoid them whenever possible...but just do it!), popular mystery-thriller author Carl Hiaasen (Skin Tight, Tourist Season, and yes, the book which spawned the now comedy cult-classic film Striptease), who lives in Florida and sets I believe all his novels there, absolutely blasts the pro-slots side, in large part just because so many of these details are lacking. In fact he writes that if you're one of those who actually believes that slots are going to produce 18,200 ''new, good, permanent jobs'' and pump a fortune into South Florida schools, proceed directly from the voting booth to your doctor's office. Because you need a brain scan. He goes on:
Unfortunately, a few minor details are missing from Tuesday's ballot measure.
Normally such questions are answered before the public is asked to vote, but this time they're trying it backward. The job of filling in all those blanks will fall to the Legislature, which in the recent past has been disinclined to favor South Florida schools when doling out the dough
….if pro-gambling forces have their way in Tallahassee, Florida will end up with the country's lowest tax rate on legalized slots -- even lower than that of Louisiana, an embarrassing distinction indeed.
As in all gambling debates, there's exaggeration and hypocrisy on both sides. It's nonsense to single out slot machines on moral grounds when so many other types of betting is legal here.

And while certain pitiable souls will always find some mindless way to blow their paychecks or pensions, most slots players aren't addicted. They just do it for fun.

But please don't try to sell us the idea that gambling is actually good for the fabric of the community. It's mainly good for the lucky suits who make the odds and pocket the bets.

And if that doesn't bother you, vote Yes on Tuesday.[Miami Herald]