Coalition of Faith Leaders Oppose Casino Gambling Expansion

Tallahassee – On Tuesday, November 1, 2011, in Tallahassee, leaders of four statewide organizations joined voices in opposing the expansion of gambling and specifically legislation that would authorize some of the largest casinos in the world to set up in Florida. Representatives from the Florida Catholic Conference, the Florida Baptist Convention, the Florida Family Policy Council and Casino Watch all expressed their concern over the negative consequences the explosion of gambling in new mega casinos would bring to Florida.

The conference was opened by Bill Warren, Director of Policy and Communications of Florida Family Action. State Represenative Dennis Baxley and Rachel Burgin were both in attendance to show support and make statements.

John Stemberger, President of Floirida Family Action, the lobbying arm of the Florida Family Policy Council said that the organization would hold elected officials accountable for gambling votes through a number of means including: tracking votes on a hall of shame and hall of fame; asking legislators to sign a “No Casinos Pledge”; and following the money of which members are taking gambling PAC money. Stemberger said, “We will not sit idly back as the gambling industry attempts to buy out Florida and her elected officals with the corrupting influence of gaming money that is floating around Tallahassee like a bad flu bug.” Stemberger’s full statement can be found here.

The Florida Catholic Conference has a long standing record of opposing new gambling in Florida. D. Michael McCarron, Executive Director of the Florida Catholic Conference, argued that casinos prey on the neediest of our society. “For those who are struggling to make ends meet, casino gambling can provide an attractive means to relieve financial burdens, which ultimately only leads to crushing debt and personal crises. We oppose the current proposals in view of the potential
harm to the common good of the residents of our state.”

Bill Bunkley with the Florida Baptist Convention also appeared and had the most passionate presentation. Bunkley stated, “If left unchecked this tidal wave of gambling expansion, in our state will leave in its wake pain and destruction in the lives of countless people especially the poor and the elderly.”

Mark Andrews, Chairman of Casino Watch, which regularly exposes the dark side of gambling, has witnessed the impacts of gambling in his former home state of Missouri and is committed to working to prevent those same results here. “A recent study by one of Florida’s sheriffs warns of an escalation in crime and the cost of addressing it. Surely this kind of study should be taken seriously before we jump from the frying pan into the fire.”