|Legislators, regulators and gaming interests from around the USA will meet in Newport, RI, this weekend to discuss issues surrounding legalized gambling. They include tribal-state relations, the growth of video-lottery terminals, casino legislation and federal efforts to minimize the spread of Internet gambling.|
'The state of gambling three years ago and today are just not that close,' said Florida state Sen. Steve Geller, president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States. 'Budget crises have dramatically altered what in many cases have been long-standing relationships' between gambling interests and states.
Rhode Island could serve as a case study for the eight-year-old council, which has members from 12 states.
In 1992, gambling money made up just 1.4 percent of Rhode Island's general budget and was the 13th largest source of revenue. This fiscal year, the budget counts on $302 million in gaming revenues — nearly 11 percent of general revenues.
The state this year responded to declining tax collections by increasing its share of the profits from its two video-lottery-terminal operators. Lawmakers, meanwhile, wrestled with legislation that would ask voters whether they want to allow a casino in Rhode Island. Gambling revenues have helped Rhode Island avert deep cuts in government services, though some worry the state may be too reliant on gambling.
Seventeen of 19 states that this year considered adding slot or video lottery machines at racetracks opposed the proposals or took no action, he said. Maine and Colorado will put the question to voters later this year.
Proponents say so much interest shows states are increasingly turning to gambling.
The non-profit council includes members from Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas.