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Poll: Voters outside Southeast Florida don't want to bet on casinos

Florida voters are divided across regional lines on the proposal to bring casino resorts to South Florida, with voters in nearly every region except Southeast Florida opposed to the measure, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll of Florida voters Dec. 9-13. Download Flgambling1211poll

The poll asked 625 registered voters if they support "gambling legislation that will lead to the establishment of one of the world's largest Las Vegas-style casino's in Florida;'' 48 percent said they oppose such a plan and 41 percent said they favored it, with 11 percent undecided.

The geographic breakdowns are striking: In north Florida 56 percent opposed, while 55 percent opposed in Central Florida, 48 percent opposed and 39 percent supported in Tampa Bay, and 49 percent opposed in Southwest Florida. In Southeast Florida -- from Indian River to Monroe counties -- 37 percent opposed and 50 percent supported.

Asked if they would be inclined to vote for or against lawmakers supporting "expanded Las Vegas-style mega-casino gambling in Florida," barely one third of respondents in north, central, southwest Florida and Tampa Bay said they would be inclined to vote for the lawmaker. In Southeast Florida, 48 percent said they would be inclined to vote for and 39 percent said against.

The sponsors of the proposal, Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and Rep. Erik Fresen, have said that the measure is is intended to be limited to Miami Dade and Broward counties but the current proposal still opens the door for a casino to be built elsewhere. Another clarification about the poll question: the legislation also doesn't call for the largest casino in the world but a proposal by Malaysian casino giant Genting, if approved, has the potential to be the largest casino floor.

Brad Coker, pollster for Mason-Dixon Research, said "nobody paid for the poll." He instead piggybacked the two questions onto a poll he was doing for a Washington, D.C. client on children's issues. The measure, however, has been opposed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and No Casinos, both are backed by Disney and a coalition of tourism-related businesses.

He said he was not surprised by the results. "Big scale, casino-style gambling has always been less than popular outside of the Broward, Miami Dade area,'' Coker said. "The rest of the state is kind of conservative."

Genting lobbyist and Miami Dade school board member, Carlos Curbelo, criticized the poll as 
"another bogus, disingenuous poll designed to confuse and misinform.'' He said a poll by the rival lobbying group, Associated Industries of Florida, released soon will counter the findings of the Mason-Dixon poll.

"Opponents of destination resorts are terrified to ask voters the relevant questions because they know that there is strong support for this policy in most regions of the state,'' he said.