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Magic Kingdoms

The Walt Disney Company is spending a lot of money to make sure the closest casino to the Magic Kingdom remains 66 miles away.

Magic Kingdoms

I went on vacation with my family last month at Walt Disney World (“Home of the $20 Hamburger”). We stayed at a nice resort, stood in stifling lines, walked around virtual worlds including a hilarious 1966 “Tomorrowland” with creaky animatronics, and had meet-and-greets with a giant rodent that doesn’t actually exist.

No, it was fun, really. I went on some of the rides, spent time with the family, and ate snails in a French restaurant where the waiters spoke French to each other, and were fabulously rude. (Kidding.)

However, as is usual for me while on vacation, I kept looking for the casino. Of course, as we all know, there are no casinos at Walt Disney World.

The Walt Disney Company, in fact, is spending a lot of money to make sure the closest casino to the Magic Kingdom remains 66 miles away at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa. In April, the company contributed $250,000 to “Voters in Charge,” a group pushing a Florida constitutional amendment that would require any new casino to submit to a vote of the state’s citizens.

I believe the majority of that money came from my pocket last month, by the way. Happy to help.

The petition drive for a constitutional amendment is in response to efforts by Florida lawmakers to expand dog and horse tracks across the state and create Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida. They need 100,000 signatures to get the anti-casino measure on the 2018 ballot, and as I understand, language in the ballot measure will allow signatures from animated mice, dogs, mermaids (only little ones), lion kings, living toys, and whatever the heck Lilo and Stitch are.

The Disney people, of course, oppose casinos in Florida because they think gambling halls would be detrimental to the family image of the state, where Philadelphia crime boss Skinny Joey Merlino still runs a restaurant. Seriously. He opened it in Boca Raton after he got out of the joint in 2011, presumably so he could be closer to the ghosts of Santo Trafficante and Al Capone.

Personally, I think there should be a casino at Walt Disney World. It could become part of the culture. How about a virtual-reality ride on a giant craps table through the skies over the Las Vegas Strip? Or one that makes you a reel symbol on a giant slot machine? There could be Bugsy Siegel and Skinny Joey mascots mingling with Mickey and Donald at the restaurants.

Mostly, though, a casino would give back-challenged guests like myself something to do while our families are enjoying rides that would turn me into a twisted freak. Hey, at least I’d be dumping all that cash with a chance of winning some of it back. They could put the casino right between the Little Mermaid ride and the snack stand that charges $10 for a pretzel. (Really.)

I guess anyone expecting Disney to soften on gambling is just wishing upon a star. And it makes no difference who you are. You might as well put a casino under the sea. (OK, I’ll stop.)

Incidentally, my daughter took a picture of my son and I, soaring under the sea on the new Little Mermaid ride, watching hockey on my cellphone.

Hey, it’s the playoffs.

Speaking of amusement rides, they broke ground in Downtown Las

Vegas last month on a new attraction based on the Fear the Walking Dead zombie television show. It’s being created by Canada’s Triotech, which has built attractions including the XD Dark Ride at GameWorks in Town Square Las Vegas and the Ninjago ride at Legoland California.

Details were still being worked out at press time, including how many employees will be needed to run the attraction, and how customers will be able to tell the attraction’s zombies from the usual characters on Fremont Street.

Next, less than two years after it opened in the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, the world’s largest Hooters is closing. Fox News cited “stiff competition” (honest) from other restaurants with buxom waitresses. Oh, well. At least you can still go to the Hooters Casino. (“Where A Pair Always Beats a Full House.”)

Finally, it says here that North Korea is calling on foreign businesses to invest in an international casino cruise ship to raise money for the cash-strapped regime, and to “boost tourism.”

As I understand it, the first progressive jackpot on the converted Soviet-era ship will consist of a single potato at the Kim Jong Un Buffet. Entertainment will consist of the stage play Our Beloved Leader. Dealers will all have bad hair, and will be dressed in drab military uniforms.

Talk about virtual reality.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.