Walt Disney Corporation, one of the world’s largest multimedia entertainment corporations operating in the US, Canada, and elsewhere, is at the centre of a gambling debate in Florida. The company is fiercely opposed to casinos in the state, and is joining the anti-casino lobbyists within the debate.
But Disney’s ethics are being questioned by its own critics, including pro-casino lobbyists. The company took ownership of Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for approximately $4 billion, a company that promotes branded slot machines, scratchcards, and other gambling games.
The release of Marvel’s new Thor movie will undoubtedly release new Marvel-branded merchandise to the public. However, a spokesperson for Marvel confirmed the company is conforming to Disney’s position on gambling, with all slot machine licensing agreements scheduled to expire by 2015.
“Marvel discontinued plans to initiate or renew slot machine licensing arrangements as part of its integration with Disney. The handful of remaining license agreements have expiration dates within the next few years.”
Florida lawmakers struck down a proposal to introduce casino gambling in 2012, a decision heavily influenced by anti-gambling proponents like Disney. But the state’s licensing agreement with The Seminole First Nations Tribe expires in 2015, which opens the door to privatized casinos in the state.
Disney says it will once again fight against the legislative motion, but critics argue Disney’s affiliation with Marvel makes its position hypocritical. Marvel branded merchandise is sold in many Disney stores, including shops inside the Walt Disney World theme park –branded with characters and images also found on Marvel slot machines.
Robert Jarvis, a gambling law professor, believes Disney is isolating itself from supporters and opponents of gambling alike. Jarvis feels critics interpret Disney’s actions show the company is more concerned that casinos would take away customers from Disney World, rather than adhering to a philosophical opposition to gambling.
“Hypocrisy is in the eye of the beholder. If they were honest, they would just come out and say, it’s Business 101. We’re trying to protect our turf, and we’ve always attempted to do that.”