Disney Fights to Save Florida from the Godless Scourge of Competition Casinos

$2.5 million on candidates to protect billions in profits from the market


Disney execs don't even bother with the smoke-filled rooms anymore.

Walt Disney World, no stranger to extracting subsidies and deals from the government, is throwing its weight around in the Sunshine State partly for the purposes of preventing the development of big casinos. Via the Orlando Sentinel:

Walt Disney World has spent nearly $2.5 million on political candidates and causes in Florida so far this election cycle, according to an Orlando Sentinel review of state records, as the giant resort attempts to influence elections from the Keys to the Panhandle.

Disney's political spending in Florida has ballooned to unprecedented levels: It has spent nearly twice as much money as it had at this same point during the 2010 elections, and it has spent about six times as much as it did during the entire 2008 cycle. …

Disney's goal? To elect politicians who will support its legislative agenda in the state Capitol — especially those who commit to voting against any plans to allow Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida.

"Our contribution levels in 2012 reflect increased efforts to support candidates who oppose the expansion of casino gambling in Florida," Disney spokesman Bryan Malenius said.

Is there a bigger display of power than actually telling the media outright you are using your money in politics to try to harm your competition? It's particularly telling when you're angling for even more subsidies:

In addition to lobbying against casinos, Disney this year helped persuade lawmakers to substantially increase — to $54 million — state spending on tourism advertising. And it got them to earmark $1 million for incentives for professional soccer teams that hold spring training in Central Florida.

Lobbyists for Disney and for International Speedway Corp. of Daytona Beach also wrote a multimillion-dollar package of tax breaks designed to benefit their sports facilities, including the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World and ISC's Daytona International Speedway. But their legislation failed to pass amid concerns about its cost and criticism that it was corporate welfare.

But then, it's hard to feel bad for casino developers because they're more than willing to do the exact same thing to each other. In August, BuzzFeed noted a mailer sent by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Maryland encouraging gay marriage supporters to oppose putting a casino expansion vote on the ballot. The argument was that a casino vote would bring out more conservative voters than just a gay marriage vote and would increase the likelihood of gay marriage rejection. That argument made no sense, and the gay organization played coy with the source of the money for the mailers.

But last week John Wagner at The Washington Post was able to nail down Penn National Gaming as the source of the funding for the mailer. Penn owns 26 gambling facilities in 18 states, including a race track in Maryland.

At this point, there's practically no room at the table for anybody who actually opposes gambling for moral reasons.

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  1. It’s for teh children. So it’s OK.

  2. this would be your “we want small govt” Repubs, like Rick Scott and the execrable Pam Bondi, the woman who wants to know about everyone’s prescription meds. God forbid grownups should decide for themselves whether to patronize a casino or not.

    1. They seem to have the SoConBusyBody disease worse in FL than other states.

      On the other hand, “stand yer ground!” Amirite?! George Zimmerman, your thoughts?

      1. It’s a crap shoot.

        / Zimmerman

    2. I’ll leave the patronizing up to the legislature, thankyouverymuch.

  3. I paid homage to the Mouse this weekend, going to the EPCOT Food Wine Festival. I think I understand how they can afford to increase their spending on elections–they charge enough to eliminate the federal deficit.

    1. I’m starting a new gig next week with the Mouse. Hopefully it comes with free (or at least reduced) admission to the parks.

      1. Remember, all customers are “guests.”

        1. I live only 15 minutes from Disneyland in Anaheim, but I haven’t been in at least 7 or 8 years. And yet I know people that buy the year pass and go several times a month.

          1. I’ve got friends like that. But the passes have gotten so expensive that even they are reconsidering.

        2. I guess marks would be too honest.

      2. congrats on the gig. Unfortunately, it comes with the cluster known as Orlando. Then again, better gigs require proximity to urban areas.

        1. There’s always Taintsville.

        2. Ha! I would never befoul myself with the national jockstrap known as Florida. I’ll have you know I live in Los Angeles.

          1. That’s not real Disney. Real Disney is where they control a whole state.

    2. At least you got to hear Starship, and their amazing 1980’s hits.

      1. If someone had told me that I would actually hear “We Built this City” live before last Friday, I’d have slugged him. But that’s exactly what happened. And I was sitting behind people who were excited to hear that song.

        To be fair, Mickey Thomas looked like he didn’t want to be singing that song, either.

        1. Well, he gets to hear it a lot. Then again, if he’s going to inflict it on others, he should suffer.

          Fun fact: several people who work/ed at Disney told me that Tigger was almost invariably played by flamboyant gay men.

          1. Tigger’s gay? My gaydar powers are weak, I guess.

            I thought he (the only person from, well, not quite the original band but sort of) did a pretty good job–acted like he wanted to be there, still hit many of the high notes. It’s got to be tough playing a venue like that when you once were in a high-draw band.

            1. I just wanted to include that information in case Scott was a furry.

              Yeah, Starship has had more personnel changes than the Mickey Mouse Club. I recently found out that Thomas was the singer on Elvin Bishop’s Fooled Around and Fell in Love, which makes me never want to hear him again.

              1. He’s a pretty good singer, but yes, he sang a few songs I don’t care for. A few of their better hits were his, though, like “Jane.”

  4. If you support Florida casinos you’re fucking Goofy.

  5. Mickey: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
    Minnie: Do you know how naive you sound, Mickey? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed.
    Mickey: Who’s being naive now, Minnie?

  6. Companies will always use all means at their disposal to get a market advantage. Unfortunately, we’ve structured things such that the competition takes place in the political realm instead of the economic realm.

  7. Yeah, Penn was successfully get a monopoly on gambling in Ohio. Casino here in Columbus opens today as a matter of fact.

    1. I do not believe Penn has a monopoly. I thought the Cleveland one, at least, was owned by some other company.

      Anyway, this is one of those places where incremental libertarianism becomes a problem. Does an incremental libertarian prefer what Penn and the others got, or would they have preferred no gambling at all?

      I fought for the former, but I understand the latter’s POV.

      1. You may be correct about Cleveland but still. If you want to gamble in any of those cities you have one place you can go. Yeah, there is an incremetal argument to make but I was opposed to the bill mainly because it gave the casinos rights under the Ohio constition to not have any competitors which is BS. If they can open a casino then anyone else should be able to open one as well. Why does that aspect of it need to be in the States Constitution.

        1. If the State wants its constitution taken more seriously, then it should not be amendable by a simple majority. Given that it is, this is the legal battlefield we have.

      2. Does an incremental libertarian prefer what Penn and the others got, or would they have preferred no gambling at all?

        I prefer a nice, clean ban to a crony deal between the state and a monopolist, thanks.

        1. So in other words, no gambling.

          Because that’s what we had before the amendments.

      3. I would personally support no gambling, since it’s easier to change cultural mores than it is to change the monopoly’s views on whether it should have shittons of money.

    2. +1 JB. I’m certainly not going to the casino anytime soon.

      At least until the initial buzz of bs fades.

      Instead I’ll go to Lifestyles and see if Jack White walks off of the stage tonight.

      1. That will be a good show. Heard it was sold out. Yeah, I’ll wait at least a month before I go check it out. Went to the Racino a couple weekends ago for the first time. It was pretty nice. Food was terrible though.

  8. Are casinos and amusement parks in direct competition for anything other that the tiny remorseful gambler parent demographic?

    “Thank you, Disney! Daddy can’t gamble our vacation money away!”

    1. I believe Vegas’s efforts to draw families out there last decade bombed terribly and they replaced all their family friendly shows with topless dancers

      1. Actually, they were topless dancers all along, they just made some of them wear tops for about 5 horrible, misguided years.

        1. I still recall one casino canceling its pirate-themed stunt spectacular around 2006 or so and replacing it with a pirate-themed burlesque show.

  9. Charles Town, are we free to gambol about the National Harbor?

    “Not if we have our way, mother****ers.”

  10. Fun fact: Disney maintains complete control over Lake Buena Vista, Florida through the Reedy Creek Improvement District. They act as government and have pretty wide ranging powers, including eminent domain. Heck, they can build a nuclear power plant if they want to, without having to go to the state.

    I’d say something, but I’m pretty much beholden to the Mouse. It’s embarassing to say how much money I’ve spent with them since my daughter was born, and further embarassing to say how much money I’m already planning to spend in the coming months.

    1. they can build a nuclear power plant if they want to, without having to go to the state.

      If they do this, they’ve got my vote.

  11. But then, it’s hard to feel bad for casino developers because they’re more than willing to do the exact same thing to each other.

    You also can’t feel bad for the consumer, since political donations themselves don’t win elections.

  12. So, if I’m following, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force pimped itself out to a gambling monopolist by essentially renting their name and mailing list for flyer trying to block a prop that the monopolist opposed?

    Wow. You just can’t be too cynical, can you?

    1. Were those questions?

  13. What is wrong with corporations exercising their right of free speech? I thought Reason was in favor of this.

    1. How is judging them for what they’re saying objecting to the right of free speech?

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