TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Just 13 days after Florida voters elected Rick Scott as the 45th governor of the state of Florida, the venture capitalist turned politician was in Las Vegas meeting with one of the largest Republican donors, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Scott, who at the time was governor-elect, returned from the meeting and according to internal emails obtained by Eyewitness News instructed staff to begin work on destination casino legislation.
The internal emails were written just four months after the creating of Scott's political action committee "Let's Get to Work" was formed with the express purpose of supporting Rick Scott and no other candidates. Last year "Let's Get to Work" took in $825,000 in campaign contributions from casino and resort interests including $250,000 from Adelson, two $50,000 payments from Donald Trump, $10,000 from Boyd Gaming, and $50,000 from dog track owners The Racing Corporation of West Virginia.
The meetings and money show a relationship with organized gambling and destination casinos that has not been reflected in Scott's statements since taking office.
Just two months after his 2010 meeting with Adelson in Las Vegas, Scott said in a press conference, "I haven't taken any position other than the position I've already said. I do not want our budget to be tied to gaming."
The governor would repeat this position in subsequent interviews, telling Eyewitness News on
"Are we living in a state that is pay-to-play?" said Deirdre Macnab of the League of Women Voters. "Rick Scott, as our
While the League of Women Voters does not have a position on organized gambling or destination casinos, the group said the money and influence that has been pressed on Scott should compel him to at least take a public position on casinos.
"This is a waterfall of special interest money, and basically what it does, and citizens aren't dumb, they know it, it is completely drowning out the voice and interest of citizens" says Macnab.
In May of 2011, Scott vetoed $400,000 for a comprehensive gambling study saying in his veto, "Such a study at this time is an expense Florida taxpayers should not incur".
Two years after the
The study conducted by New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming Group found "Orlando competes nationally and globally in various segments, and Las Vegas – a destination centered on gaming – is clearly a competitor."
The study went on to find that "Orlando's strength in attracting business travelers is growing without gaming, and that absence is to some degree fueling that growth. Orlando has carved out a significant, profitable niche in that national market, and gaming would clearly be antithetical to that image and its ability to dominate that important segment."
The Florida Legislature is expected to draw from this two-part study in 2014 when it meets again.
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