Florida diverts cash collected to aid problem gamblers

Although the state collected $1.75 million from pari-mutuels for gambling prevention and education programs in the past year, the legislature allocated less than one-sixth of that — $264,700 — for such programs. It plowed the rest of the money back into the general revenue fund to help cover a $3.8 billion budget hole.

Florida diverts cash collected to aid problem gamblers

Dara Kam
Published: November 16, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As Florida lawmakers consider a major expansion of gambling in the state, they are spending less than ever to keep gamblers from getting hooked or to help those who have a problem.

Although the state collected $1.75 million from pari-mutuels for gambling prevention and education programs in the past year, the legislature allocated less than one-sixth of that — $264,700 — for such programs. It plowed the rest of the money back into the general revenue fund to help cover a $3.8 billion budget hole.

Besides paying a 35 percent pari-mutuel tax, Broward and Miami-Dade counties’ seven horse and dog tracks that have slot machines each must pay the state $250,000 a year for compulsive gambling prevention and help-line programs. But state law also gives the legislature the power to decide how much of the total is actually allocated for prevention programs.

Lawmakers last spring also allocated $569,000 from Florida Lottery revenue to spend on compulsive gambling programs, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed that item in the state budget.

Instead of having more than $2 million from the state government this year, the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling has been left nearly broke in 2011, according to the council’s executive director, Pat Fowler.

Slots bill ‘surprising’

Meanwhile, lawmakers in 2012 will consider one proposal that would allow up to three resort casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and another that would allow slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club if local voters approve.

For full story please click here.