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Politics / Issues

PolitiFact Florida On Gamblers Lose $6 For Every $1 Florida Gets; Romney On Trump

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Bet 'em up?

Expanding gambling throughout Florida seems to be a lost bet this year in Tallahassee. But does the state really get six times the money that people lose gambling?  And was Mitt Romney's recent attacks on Donald Trump in keeping what he said during the last presidential campaign? WUSF's Steve Newborn gets the facts with Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

The proposed expansion of the gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe looks like it's dead this year in Tallahassee. It would have expanded the use of slot machines at various race tracks around the state.

One of the most vocal opponents of expanded gambling is state Rep.  Charles Van Zant, a Republican from Keystone Heights, near Gainesville.

Here's what he said during a recent meeting of the House Finance and Tax Committee:

"Every time you lose a dollar at gaming, there's six more dollars that are lost," Van Zant said Feb. 29. "For every time the state gets paid a dollar in taxes, somebody loses $6, is another way of saying that."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling on that:

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Gambling revenues Van Zant was not specific in the hearing about what form of gambling he meant, but his office referred us to a 2005 report in the National Tax Journal about state and local government taxes on casinos nationwide. "The American Gaming Association (2004) reports that 443 commercial casinos in 11 states generated more than $27 billion in gross gaming revenue in 2003," the report read. "State and local governments derived $4.32 billion in direct gaming taxes from this economic activity, or about 16 percent of gross gaming revenue." That 16 percent rounds to $1 of state revenue for every $6 gamblers spend, Van Zant’s office said. Those numbers are more than a decade old, so we looked up a more current snapshot. The American Gaming Association in 2014 said casino gaming revenues (from gambling, not hotel rooms or drinks or some such) were $67 billion, and casinos paid out $10 billion in state and local taxes. So more recently, the nationwide figure rounds up to almost 7 to 1. But applying that logic to Florida’s gambling environment is difficult, at best. It would have helped if Van Zant had been more specific, because Florida has several forms of gambling. There are cardrooms, where people play poker and other games; pari-mutuels, which are essentially horse and dog racing; slot machines; lotteries; and Indian-owned casinos. The state gets a cut of all these forms of gambling, but the percentage varies depending on the game. For example, cardrooms are taxed at 10 percent. The slot machine tax rate, meanwhile, is 35 percent. There are various fees and permits and other charges involved, too. To even try to make a direct comparison to Van Zant’s stat, we could look at only casino revenue. Seven of Florida’s eight casinos — which share revenue with the state — are owned by the Seminole Tribe.The state’s cut of casino revenue is spelled out in the Tribe’s compact, a business agreement that sovereign Indian tribes must enter into with their home states in order to run casinos on their land. (This is the agreement the Tribe wants the Legislature to renew with some new provisions.) The state is technically not allowed to tax the Tribe, because that’s against federal law. But the compact allows the state to agree with the Tribe to get money via "revenue sharing." Under terms of the compact that expired last year, the Seminoles agreed to share gaming revenues with the state based on tiers: The Tribe would pay 12 percent of net revenue up to $2 billion, 15 percent of revenue between $2 billion and $3 billion, and so on. Some of that revenue was guaranteed, while the rest depends on how well the casinos did in a given year. Calculating net revenue can get pretty complicated, but the shorthand version is that the state said the effective cut those casinos gave the state was 12.24 percent in 2015. That ratio comes out to about 8 to 1 — in effect, people gamble away $8 for every $1 the state gets, using Van Zant’s reasoning. That’s more than the 6 to 1 ratio he cited, but again, that’s just casino dollars. As we’ve noted, other forms of gambling bring in more taxes per dollar, some less. We also should point out that the vast majority of this money is what economists refer to as "cannibalized." That is, it’s money coming from people already in the state who gamble instead of spending that money elsewhere. Our ruling His argument is that the taxes states receive from gaming revenue is money other people have lost while gambling. Van Zant was using nationwide figures from 2005 for the amount of tax money state and local governments received from casinos. That ratio changed to about 7 to 1 by 2014. But that comparison is tough to apply to Florida. The state has more forms of gambling than just casinos, and the state gets money from all of them in different ways and at different rates. If we look at just the terms of how the Seminole Tribe shares its casino revenue, the state gets about $1 for every $8 people spend in casinos. Van Zant’s larger point stands that state tax revenue comes at the expense of comparatively high gambling losses, but the details are fuzzy at best. We rate his statement Half True.

Moving on to our next fact-check, Mitt Romney recently lashed out at Republican front-runner Donald Trump, saying:

"Let me put it plainly: If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished," Romney said.

But that's not what he said four years ago:
 

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Is this a bit of a waffle for Romney? Here's PolitiFact's ruling: 

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We took a look at Romney’s remarks now and in 2012 to see whether he’s flip-flopped on Trump’s business record. Here’s what Romney said during his March 3 speech when he criticized Trump: "But wait, you say, isn’t he a huge business success that knows what he’s talking about? No, he isn’t. His bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who worked for them. He inherited his business, he didn’t create it. And what ever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there’s Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks, and Trump Mortgage? A business genius he is not." And here’s what Romney said in 2012 at a news conference in Las Vegas with Trump at his side: "Being in Donald Trump's magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. I'm so honored and pleased to have his endorsement. ... Donald Trump has shown an extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works to create jobs for the American people. He's done it here in Nevada. He's done it across the country. ... I spent my life in the private sector. Not quite as successful as this guy. But successful nonetheless." Romney’s comments in Las Vegas are less specific than what he said in 2016 -- he never singled out specific business ventures, other than the hotel where the endorsement event was being held. Still, in 2012, Romney communicated an overall admiration for Trump’s business acumen, citing his "extraordinary ability" to understand how to create jobs "across the country." Romney even said that his own -- and not insubstantial -- business accomplishments were "not quite as successful" as Trump’s. Still, we see his comments four years apart as being fundamentally different in their message. Hearing Romney’s 2012 comments, a listener would not have picked up on the notion he asserted in 2016 -- that "a business genius (Trump) is not." We rate Romney’s view on Trump’s business record a Full Flop.

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