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Cannon unsure what stance is on gaming bill; reserving judgment

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By James Call

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-992208.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – The Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives said Wednesday he is skeptical about a proposal to create Destination Resorts featuring casinos in South Florida. James Call reports, Speaker Dean Cannon says he remains philosophically opposed to expanding gambling opportunities in Florida.

The bill's sponsors say it shifts the gambling industry's focus towards an economic development model that builds world-class resorts that would attract international visitors. They say their plan would actually reduce the amount of gambling in Florida by shutting down unregulated internet cafes. Speaker Dean Cannon told the Associated Press Legislative Planning Session he is reluctant to weigh in on a bill before it is vetted in committee but questions whether a casino bill can actually reduce gambling in the state.

"Representative Fresen and Senator Bogandoff just filed their bill last week. We expect to get that referred this week in the normal scope of business. But I remain very skeptical. I've heard those arguments exist but I have yet to see a concrete plan to accomplish it My philosophy hasn't changed, I'm trying to reserve judgment at this point but I am skeptical of those arguments."

Fort Lauderdale Senator Ellen Bogdanoff and Miami Representative Erik Fresen are sponsoring the bill which creates a statewide gaming commission to regulate the industry. Senate President Mike Haridopolos thinks such a commission is a good idea given that Florida offers a variety of gambling opportunities. Haridopolos though appears to be uncommitted about the legislation. He says he wants the Senate to debate and vote on the Destination Casino bill.

"This is not one where I will be whipping votes or asking people or twisting arms so to speak to get people to vote in a certain direction. You are going to see Republicans and Democrats all over the board on this issue and I respect that. What I would like to see is a vote. I think last year it got kind of bottled up this year I would like to see a vote. It's going to start off in Senator Jones' committee. My guest is in a couple of weeks we will have a workshop and then a vote maybe in a month or so."

A coalition of Faith groups, including Catholics and Baptists, says defeat of the casinos bill is their number one legislative priority. The Florida Legislature's annual session begins in January.