Monday, February 16, 2009

Testimony Regarding Seminole Indian Compact

February 12, 2009 Statement to the
House Select Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review
By Nathan Dunn – Vice President of Public Policy
Florida Family Action

My name is Nathan Dunn and I represent Florida Family Action. We are associated nationally with Focus on the Family and we represent the interests of millions of Floridians who wish to see traditional values and the interests of families represented in matters of public policy.

I want to briefly state that we are opposed to any agreement with the Seminole Indians that will expand predatory gambling in Florida. The introduction of Class III gambling to Seminole facilities is not in the best long-term interests of Florida’s families and communities.

The compact was put together under the assumption that the federal government would authorize Class III gaming for the Seminoles regardless of what the state did. And the popular idea was put forward that agreeing to the Compact at least allowed the state to benefit some financially from this supposedly inevitable expansion of gambling.

We take issue with the very foundation of that premise. In 2007 the state of Texas successfully rebuffed an effort by the US Department of the Interior to force Class III gambling upon the communities of Texas. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Interior Department overstepped its bounds and violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act by authorizing the Kickapoo Tribe to begin Class III gambling (1). In so doing the court upheld the right of states to limit the gambling offered on Indian property in their state.

Thus the state of Florida has solid legal ground to reject a compact with the Seminole Indians and there are significant reasons why expanding predatory gambling is the wrong direction for the state to take. The results across the board are devastating to families and communities and can be summed up in the ABC’s of gambling: Addiction, Bankruptcy and Crime.

The most recent studies show that about 2.5 million Americans are pathological gamblers and another 3 million are problem gamblers. (2)

A half million Floridians have suffered from serious to severe gambling related difficulties at some point in their lives. In a report to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling in 2002 it was found that Florida has a larger percentage of problem and pathological gamblers (0.8%) than reported in the national survey (0.5%). More startling is that Florida’s at-risk population (4.0%) is about two times that of the national study (2.3%). (3)

And a 2006 Pew Research Center survey found that 70% of Americans say that legalized gambling encourages people to gamble more than they can afford. (4) And please consider that 90% of casino profits come from 10% of the gamblers - which means that out-of-control gamblers are the profit center for the casino trade. (5) Greater accessibility of predatory gambling products leads to increased addiction and this inevitably hurts families, children and communities.

Bankruptcy also increases wherever gambling thrives. A national survey of 298 counties found that the counties with gambling had a bankruptcy filing rate 18% higher than those without. (6) Various studies of pathological gamblers show that 20 percent or more eventually file for bankruptcy. (7)

Increased crime is also a natural result when gambling is forced upon a community. By evaluating the results from other communities we know that when Class III gaming is permitted the crime rate is nearly twice the national average. (8) A Department of Justice study found that more than 30 percent of pathological gamblers who had been arrested reported having committed a robbery within the past year. And nearly 1/3 admitted that they had committed the robbery to pay for gambling debts. 13% said they had assaulted someone to get money. (9)

Research has also shown that for every dollar gambling brings the government in revenue, three dollars must be spent on increased expenses related to crime and public assistance programs. (10) That’s not a pay-off the people of Florida can afford.

None of us want to see Florida lose its treasured position as a family-friendly state with safe and growing communities. I urge the committee to reject the proposed expansion of predatory gambling that a Seminole Compact would bring.

(1) and Texas v. US (August 17, 2007)
(2) “Gambling and Crime Among Arrestees: Exploring the link” – United States Department of Justice. 2004
(3) Gambling and Problem Gambling Prevalence Among Adults in Florida - A Report to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, University of Florida, 2002.
(4) Paul Taylor, Cary Funk, Peyton Craighill, "Gambling: As the Take Rises, So Does Public Concern," Pew Research Center, social trends report online, 23 May 2006.
(5) Winner Takes All By Christina Binkley, 2008. Pg. 184
(6) SMR Research Corporation, "The Personal Bankruptcy Crisis, 1997: Demographics, Causes, Implications, & Solutions," Hackettstown, N.J., 1997, pp.116-130.
(7) William N. Thompson, Ricardo Gazel and Dan Rickman, "The Social Costs of Gambling in Wisconsin," Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Report, July 1996, p. 15; Henry R. Lesieur and Christopher W. Anderson, "Results of a 1995 Survey of Gamblers Anonymous Members in Illinois," June 14, 1995; "The Personal Bankruptcy Crisis, 1997," op. cit., p. 124
(8) Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, October 2, 2007, Florida Times-Union
(9) Ibid. # (2)
(10) John W. Kindt, The Business-Economic Impacts of Licensed Casino Gambling in West Virginia, 13 W. VA. U. INST. PUB. AFF. 22-26 (1996)