MIAMI (CBS4) – As the bill to expand casino gambling in Florida continues its uphill climb in the state Legislature, a new poll shows Miami-Dade voters sharply divided over its merits.
When asked if they support or oppose allowing large scale Las Vegas style casinos to operate in Florida, 44 percent said they support it, 46 percent oppose it, and 10 percent were undecided.
“We actually polled this question last year and found their was actually greater support at that point for casino gambling and having Las Vegas style casinos in Miami Dade County,” said Fernan Amandi, a partner with Bendixen and Amandi International which conducted the poll for CBS4 News, The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and Univision 23. The survey of 400 voters has a margin of error of 4.9 percent
Among those who support Las Vegas style casino gambling, an overwhelming majority, 55 percent said they do because they believe it will help create jobs
While those opposed cite the effects it will have on the community, an increase in crime and a general opposition to gambling as the reason.
“What the poll shows is that the more people learn about this the less they like it,” offered Dan Gelber, who leads a group called No Casinos. “The more they hear about changing dramatically our economy to resemble an Atlantic City or Las Vegas, the less they feel they want that for them, for their children, for their community.”
But supporters of the gambling movement say they just need to do a better job of educating the public.
“As more information comes out of what the bill in the Legislature might actually be and as they get more informed about what can be done with a quality destination resort I think those numbers will change,” said Jack Lowell, a casino advocate.
Genting’s proposal to build a mega-destination resort casino on the site of the Miami Herald building also sharply divided the community with 47 percent supporting it, 45 percent opposing it and 8 percent undecided.
“In the beginning there was almost unanimous praise for the proposal,” notes Amandi. “It was going to bring jobs to Miami. It was going to be a great thing. It was an exciting proposal. This was the largest casino in the world and I think what has happened is the opposition has organized and mobilized, they’ve gotten the messages out saying the negatives and the consequences this may bring.”
One of the interesting findings in the poll is how the gambling issue divides the community. The poll shows Hispanics support casino gambling while Anglos and Blacks oppose it.
And broken down along gender lines, the poll found women oppose casino gambling while men narrowly support it.