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Legalized gambling debate coming to Pensacola

FLORIDA - Should legalized gambling be expanded in Florida? An effort by state lawmakers to study the idea is moving forward. And the public will get a chance to weigh in on the topic in Pensacola in a couple of months.
   
The Florida Senate Gaming Committee is hoping for a full house when it holds its public hearing on gambling in November. It will take place at the Amos Performance Studio at Pensacola State College. The hearing is one of four that will be held in cities throughout Florida.
   
The gaming committee's chairman says its goal is to reform gambling laws in a way that benefits the state's economy and social welfare.

Voters we spoke with were divided on the issue.

"I don't see a problem with it," said Doug Rogers.

Joe Carson, who admits he enjoys playing blackjack, said, "It'd definitely bring a lot of revenue into the state. I mean, you've got gambling in all kinds of other places."

But Alex Fuqua said, "Yeah, you can make money, but you can also lose money."

And Deanthia Wallace said, "It's a moral issue."
   
Lawmakers paid a consulting firm called the Spectrum Gaming Group about $400,000 to study the gambling industry. The first part of that study was released Monday. It cites a poll that says 85 percent of the public views gambling in casinos as an acceptable activity.   

"There's definitely a market for it and we gotta do something," Carson argued, "I mean we gotta do somethin', especially in this area to bring in some kind of revenue."

"The Bible speaks about gambling," Wallace said, "Why partake in something that's morally wrong?" 
   
The second part of the study will be released on October 1. Critics question its credibility, saying its authors have close ties to the gambling industry. But State Senator Garret Richter, who heads the gaming committee, says it will contain several different points of view.

The public hearing will be held at the Amos Performance Studio on November 14.