The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States met over the weekend in Hollywood, and while there's no headline-grabbing news, there were plenty of interesting topics.
The group, founded by former Florida State Sen. Steve Geller, was a nonpartisan gathering at the Hollywood Diplomat (which, interestingly, wants a casino) and is billed as neither pro-gambling or anti-gambling. Current NCLGS president Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek led the group, which had state legislators from about 25 states, and contually stressed those points the non-partisan, gambling-neutral tone.
"It's about education," Waldman repeated.
My best way to convey what happened is to just throw out these bullet points from some of the presenters. (I'd have liked to stayed more just for my own education, but deadlines called.)
Reece Middleton, from the Louisiana Office on Compulsive Gambling, talked about what his state is doing. They operate an inpatient compulsive gambling center. (That means people stay there and the group digs not only at compulsive gambling, but other issues, because many people do not have a singular compulsion.) They also run an outpatient program for treatment. Other states, including Texas, have a contract with Louisiana to send patients for treatment. For those who don't follow Florida, our state has a budget for hotline calls, and those handling the hotlines merely refer clients to someone near their hometown who can work with any possible gambling addictions. The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling has faced budget cuts under Gov. Rick Scott, although the Seminole Tribe of Florida donated money earmarked for some treatment. The greater point: If we are going to expand gambling, perhaps we look at modeling Louisiana for addiction treatment, and the funding from the casinos ($250,000 per year) would be a good start -- if Scott would stop diverting it elsewhere in his budget.
Alex Waldrop, from the NTRA, spoke about a need for uniform drug testing in horse racing, and noted that Florida is an "outlier," in that we don't use national testing centers, instead following an agreement we've had for a long time with the University of Florida. Respondents noted that there is an expense issue, and there have not been an extremely high number of cases anyway.
Geller, who now works for Greenspoon Marder, was asked to speak about decoupling, but addressed several gambling issues, including Internet gambling. He brought up some pari-mutuels' argument for decoupling -- that it costs more to regulate the facilities that there is tax revenue brought in -- but he also leaned against decoupling in that the slots were approved as a method to support the pari-mutuels -- not to eliminate them -- so such a measure is kind of going back on our word.
Alan Koslow, from Becker and Poliakoff, used his time to promote a social gaming company, which just happened to be a client of his. It was such out-and-out pimping that I'm not naming the company in this here little blog.
Gary Grief, from the Texas Lottery Commission, gave us the history of lotteries, with the theme that the state-run lotteries are reasonably new. The first one launched in 1964, the first multi-stater didn't hit until 1985 and states sold either Powerball or MegaMillions until agreeing in 2010 to co-exist. Florida started the state lottery in 1988, then joined Powerball about five years ago and MegaMillions last yer.
Len Gilroy, of Reason Foundation, then explained how Illinois was the leader in outsourcing some of its lottery operations, but really, every state contracts out some work, he said. "It's not a binary switch," he said. He also noted that as each state advanced into outsourcing, they plug more potential leaks in the new system -- for example, Illinois' vendor and the state are in disagreement because while the company brought an increase in sales, it was below their projected sales. So there's an argument about fines.
Geoff Freeman, the new president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, was the keynote luncheon speaker (stuffed flounder, amazing smoked brisket, chicken, potatoes, etc.! Impressive.).
He said the AGA has limited resources, but will be active in standing up for any misinformation put out there, and he named NoCasinos as "spreading falsehoods about the industry."
"I guarantee Florida is one of those markets we'll be active in," he said. "No industry is as scrutinized as this one." He also spoke of cooperation with Indian tribes and others.
Meanwhile, making sure Internet cafes are gone is important: "Squashing those bugs trying to make a buck but not following the rules," he said.
He also supported online gambling, but noted the Las Vegas Sands' anti-online campaign, and chose to respectfully disagree with Sheldon Adelsohn. "We no longer can force that genie back in the bottle," he said.
He described some gambling landscapes, like South Florida's, as a "circular firing squad," with pari-mutuels battling each other.
There also were sessions on Gaming Expansion and the Role of the Regulator; State-Federal Relations; Gaming Expansion and Resort-Based Casinos; and Recent Developments in Fantasy Sports: From Social Pastime to Legal Quagmire?
Actually in this case, the titles likely didn't do program justice. It's the little crumbs -- the details and specific cases -- that make legislation so difficult, and that gray area is why the subject of gambling is so fascinating.
For the complete list of who spoke, go to NCLGS.org.