Commissioner proposes gambling to add jobs

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX)-Gaining jobs from gambling? A Palm Beach County commissioner wants gaming, as it already exists in two counties to the south.

Take for example, the Palm Beach Kennel Club, near West Palm Beach. The facility already has greyhound races, simulcasting, and a poker room. If the Kennel Club were located in Broward or Miami-Dade County, it could also have slot machines.

"We're at a definite disadvantage in tourism," said Palm Beach County Commission chair Burt Aaronson. Wednesday at a joint meeting of commissioners and the county's state lawmakers in Jupiter, Aaronson made jobs a focal point. He proposed gaming as one way to address the area's high unemployment rate.

Right now the Kennel Club employs some 600. Gaming, says Aaronson, could bring more jobs to the Kennel Club, and likely at other venues.

But Delray Beach State Representative Adam Hasner raised cautions. "I think looking for some of these short term solutions is really not going to solve our unemployment problem," said Hasner. "And it actually could create bigger problems in the long term future."

"I've always worked against the expansion of gaming," said State Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff, whose district includes parts of Southern Palm Beach County. "But it's here. That train left the station."

Bogdanoff said her House committee is looking at how to attract quality facilities.

"Only one percent of the floor space could be the gaming," postulated Bogdanoff. "What you're really looking at is the convention space, hotel space, the shopping centers-- to create a resort destination."

But bringing gaming to Palm Beach County would require a change to the state constitution, approved by voters statewide. So far there's no organized effort to such a measure on the ballot.