Roll of the Dice

Support, criticism as gambling package advances

The state Senate went all-in after advancing two bills which could soon turn Florida into a gambler's paradise.

Hoping to pump up the state's busted economy, the bills would allow the Seminole Tribe to add more games to their Hard Rock Casinos, including roulette and craps tables, while dog and horse tracks would be allowed to add black jack tables.

The Seminole Tribe has reportedly been asking for this deal for the past two decades, and with state education set to get a $1 billion boost, the benefits could be far-reaching.

"I think they should," gambler Eleanor Loos said from the floor of the Gulfstream Park Casino. "Why not?"

But not everyone wants to give the Sunshine State a Sin City feel.

A provision of the deal would drop the legal gambling age to 18 for all types of gambling. The current minimum age to bet on horses or dogs or play poker is 18, but gamblers must be 21 to play slots, blackjack and other Vegas-type games.

State senators said the age adjustment would give more uniformity, but critics said it could have some dangerous effects. 

"You're talking about opening up all kinds of gambling to the young, to the highest-risk gambling group," Pat Fowler, executive director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, told the Sun-Sentinel.

Fowler said the 18-to-24 age bracket is especially susceptible to getting in over their heads at the gaming table. "The majority of them don't have a real grip on finances and a budget," she said.

House Republicans are reportedly against the deal, but with the state facing a $6 billion budget deficit, it may be time to roll the dice.

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