Senate Holds First Hearing On Luxury Casinos Bill

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Will state Senators take a gamble on three luxury casinos in South Florida?

During a first hearing on a so-called destination resorts bill, executives from some of the biggest casino companies in the world told the lawmakers their proposals would bring thousands of jobs and better regulation to the gambling industry in Florida.

Executives from the pari-mutuel industry, however, are unhappy about the measure because not only would they have to pay a higher tax rate than the proposed “destination resort” casinos, they claim it would also put existing casinos out of business.

Bill sponsors also acknowledged that the way the bill is written, it could allow upstate counties, such as Gadsden, to host their own destination resorts, even though the measure has been billed as aimed exclusively at South Florida. But because the bill requires a minimum investment of $2 billion, stakeholders said they doubted other counties could support that type of investment.

Alan Feldman, senior vice president of MGM Resorts, said he held a meeting in Jacksonville to determine if a destination resort could be built there.

“There would be opportunity for this across the state of Florida if the bill was structured differently,” Feldman said. “At $2 billion, this is a South Florida bill.”

There was no vote at Wednesday’s “workshop” on the topic.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

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