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Florida leaders hold public hearing on gambling

FLORIDA  --  After four public hearing from one end of the state to the other, state lawmakers are about to have serious discussions on expanded gambling.
There's a 50/50 chance voters will have the final say.
 Florida voters have said no to expanded casino in 1986 and again in 1994. "Keep your comments brief."

The State Senate held four public hearings across the state, including one in Pensacola. There are proposals for mega resort casinos and dog tracks say they need slots or other gambling to stay alive.

The Committee Chairman says the odds of something comprehensive passing are

"Probably no better than 50-50, at the best."
Enter the House Speaker. He's suggesting lawmakers rewrite gambling laws, then require a vote of the people to make any changes after that, but he's opened the door for sending the whole question on gambling to the public. Gaming committee member John Thrasher says

"Anything is a possibility in this process, you know and I think there are a lot of people who think maybe we ought to freeze things in stone so that we don't have to come back every year."

"Back in 1994 after spending 16 million dollars, pro-gambling forces only got 38 percent of the vote."

Pat Roberts ran the 1994 pro-gambling campaign. He believes voters could say yes this time, if new casino's were limited to Southeast Florida.

"My gut is that's an easier thing to get done with this legislator, because they could say we gave the people a choice in November instead of them doing it."

Roberts may be right. In 2004 voters statewide, by a narrow margin, allowed Miami Dade and Broward County to have their own votes on slot machines.

We want to know what you think about legalized casino-style gaming in Florida.
WEAR and our partner News Radio 1620 are holding a Town Hall meeting.
It's tomorrow (Thursday) at 7 pm at the WSRE studios on Pensacola State College's main campus.

Pre-register at if you'd like to attend.
You can also watch the event live on our website.
And on our Sister Station WFGX My-35.