It's a Friday night in South Florida, and as the sun sets, Debbie Ferguson of Palm Beach Gardens tries her luck at the Five Dragons slot machine inside Miami-Dade County's newest casino, Calder Race Course.
It's the fourth local slots parlor Ferguson has visited on this day -- ``I made my rounds,'' the 55-year-old says -- and she's pondering adding a fifth: Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. Already she's been to the Seminole Casino in Coconut Creek, then east to Pompano Park's Isle Casino, south to the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, and now Calder.
It's a sign of gambling's growing presence in South Florida that Ferguson's casino-hopping is even possible. Just a couple of years ago she would have had to get on a plane to Vegas or Atlantic City to do that. Now there are nine casinos to choose from in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and that number could rise to a dozen in the coming years.
By placing -- and potentially losing -- their wagers right here at home, Ferguson and other gamblers are helping pay the salary of slots attendants, poker dealers, and the myriad other employees required to keep each casino going.
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