Palm Beach County may join other South Florida counties angling to change state law to allow Las Vegas-style casino resorts.
Florida lawmakers this year are expected to reconsider the debate over allowing casino resorts to spread to South Florida.
Palm Beach County has already been pushing for lawmakers to allow slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. The county argues it needs slot machines to stay competitive with pari-mutuels in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where slot machines are already allowed.
If lawmakers in the spring allow Broward and Miami-Dade to have full-fledged casino resorts – with nightclubs, hotels, restaurants and expanded types of gambling – then that “parity” argument could have Palm Beach County also pushing for the chance to build casino resorts.
“If everyone around us is having that … at some point we will have to look at that,” County Commissioner Shelley Vana said Wednesday.
Gambling “parity” for Palm Beach County was one of the issues that came up at Wednesday’s meeting between the County Commission and local state lawmakers to discuss legislative priorities.
State Sen. Maria Sachs, a Democrat who represents portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties, serves on the committee that could be crafting gambling legislation for the spring legislative session.
Sachs suggested that the County Commission consider taking a position on whether it supports allowing local casino resorts.
“At some point this is going to be a question,” Sachs said.
Palm Beach County gambling supporters have argued that expanded gambling would bring jobs and a boost in local tax revenues.
Gambling opponents counter that allowing more casino-style gambling fuels gambling addiction and crime and wouldn’t deliver the big economic boom that the gambling industry claims.
Palm Beach County voters in 2012 approved a referendum endorsing allowing slot machines at local pari-mutuels, but it would still take approval from the Legislature to OK slot machines in Palm Beach County.