S. Fla. Lawmakers Gamble On Destination Resorts Bill
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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Two South Florida lawmakers are betting casino resorts are just what we need to boost the bottom line.
Wednesday, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, filed a measure that would bring casinos to Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.
The Destination Resorts Bill (HB 487) will award exclusive full-casino licenses to three destination resorts in South Florida.
A top executive with the Genting Group, which has purchased the Miami Herald Property, recently traveled to Tallahassee to convince lawmakers that casinos will create thousands of permanent jobs and generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue.
The Genting Group has plans to open Resorts World Miami, a $3 billion mega-resort located in downtown Miami featuring hotels, condos, restaurants, bars, a convention center and a casino.
The bill filed Wednesday is over 140 pages and includes the establishment of a new Department of Gaming Control that will have sweeping powers over the state’s gambling entities, from collecting taxes to issuing subpoenas and approving licenses.
Under the plan, the Department of Gaming Control would consist of seven commissioners who would have to be approved by the Florida Senate.
The proposal is set up to favor destination resort casinos. Pari-mutuel facilities, for instance, would pay higher tax rates than the new casinos and the Seminole Tribe of Florida will no longer have the exclusive ability to operate certain card games.
Casinos operators who apply for the right to operate a destination resort in Broward or Miami-Dade counties would have to pay a refundable fee of $50 million for the right to compete and guarantee a $2 billion investment.
Allowing new casinos in the state would also put an end to the state’s annual $250 million payment from the Seminoles, part of a 20-year deal signed last year by Gov. Charlie Crist and the tribe as long as the tribe has the only casinos in the state.
Fresen said Tuesday that the current proposal will be changed to require that new casino operators guarantee to make up that amount.
There’s no guarantee the bill will pass. High-powered business groups have already come out in opposition.
However, with the state facing another multi-billion deficit in 2012 and more than 900,000 Floridians without jobs, the proposal has the blessing of Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who recently said his chamber will give it an up-or-down vote before the legislature wraps up the 2012 session in March.
“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”