Days after the Florida Supreme Court ruled Sept. 9 that a binding referendum seeking authorization for 47 casinos statewide will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, both sides unleashed a barrage of ads.
Proposition for Limited Casinos, Tallahassee, is spending $8 million to $10 million on TV and radio spots that began running statewide Sept. 16. Contributors include German hotel developer Thomas Kramer, who has given more than $1.5 million; and casino operator Mirage Hotel Corp., Las Vegas that, combined with its chairman Stephen Wynn, has put $1.5 million into the battle.
Significant opponents aligned with St. Petersburg-based No Casinos Inc. include Walt Disney World Co.; Florida Attractions Association, Tallahassee; and the Florida Hotel/Motel Association, Orlando.
Many opponents fear casinos will invite crime and siphon tourists from their businesses.
Further, growing family oriented attractions may be damaged by casinos, said Jane Adams, manager-media relations with Walt Disney World Co., Lake Buena Vista, which gave $250,000 to No Casinos. "Our concern is that the existence of casino gambling could deflect families away from Florida and threaten the foundation on which this industry's based."
Proposition for Limited Casinos' first ad salvo from political agency Squier, Knapp & Ochs Communications, Washington, touts casino gambling's economic benefits, including 70,000 jobs, another 1.5 million tourists annually and $800 million more tax revenue. A 30-second radio spot features a former FBI agent disputing claims that casinos bring crime.
The spots are airing predominantly in the state's top 10 markets, said Bob Rose, president of Marketing Magic, Hollywood, Fla., which is placing the work.
Creative Group, Miami, is in charge of Hispanic creative and media buying.
No Casinos deployed a statewide cable TV campaign Oct. 16 from Tallahassee-based independent producer Stephen D. Hull, with ads placed by media consultant Steven MacNamara. The two :30s focus on crime the group says could follow casinos into the state and special interests behind the initiative, said George Greene, executive director of No Casinos, a political action committee formed to fight a similar measure in 1978.
A telephone poll by Mason Dixon Political/Media Research, Columbia, Md., for 17 state media outlets found 57% of voters planned to vote against casinos, 39% in favor and 4% were undecided. The margin of error was 3.5 points in the poll of 811 registered Florida voters conducted Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
Acknowledging his organization's budget is dwarfed "10-to-1" by the opposition's campaign war chest, Mr. Greene said the hope is to "focus the hot white lights on those who have gone unnoticed in this campaign," including Messrs. Kramer and Wynn, who will jointly hold rights to build a casino on their South Miami Beach property if the measure passes.
For Limited Casinos, media buys will change as ongoing polling reveals shifts in public opinion, said Michael Babich, director of paid media. George Shipley & Associates, Austin, Texas, was to conduct a statewide poll last week, Mr. Babich said, and ads will change depending on polling results.
One possible future message: a state pension fund's $189 million investment in gaming industry stocks like Mirage, Circus Circus Enterprises, Hilton Hotels Corp. and Caesar's World Corp., said Randy Lewis, Limited Casinos' communications director.
"That's hypocrisy," he said. "It's just hard to let something like that go by."