Reporting Jim DeFede
Destination Resorts Bill
MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan has put the brakes on a proposal that may have put the casino gambling issue on the January ballot.
County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez added an item to Wednesday’s agenda that called for a non-binding straw ballot question on “the expansion of gambling in Miami-Dade County.”
The question he wanted answered: “Do you support the presence of destination resort casinos in Miami-Dade County?”
During Wednesday’s commission meeting however, Barbara Jordan managed to have the issue removed from Wednesday’s discussion.
Jordan told CBS4 News that she is concerned that because the January election is a Republican primary, only GOP voters will voice their opinions.
“It’s not a general election, it does not bring out the entire community,” said Jordan. “What the straw poll will say is that for the majority of those people who vote in favor of this, that the majority of the republicans favor it.”
Chairman Martinez doesn’t agree.
“I think it really takes the choice out of the voters’ hands,” said Martinez.
Commissioner Xavier Suarez said he supports the idea of letting voters voice their opinion about casino gaming in the county but expressed concern that the public would not be properly informed about the issues.
“Taking the temperature of the public unless we inform them of what it is they’re voting on.”
Chairman Martinez hopes to hold a special meeting in December in order to have the question put on the January 31st ballot. But until that happens, the question will not be on the ballot.
Martinez said he simply wants to see what voters are thinking on the issue. He said while there has been some discussion about what these mega casinos will look like, what kind of taxes the casinos should pay, and where they might be built – the more fundamental question of whether we even want to have these types of casinos in Miami hasn’t been asked.
The issue of expanding casino gambling was brought to the forefront several months ago when the Malaysian casino giant, Genting, bought The Miami Herald building and all of the land around it, including the Omni, and announced plans to build a destination resort that would have 5,100 hotel rooms, 55 restaurants and a casino space larger than anything currently available in Las Vegas.
Other companies followed suit announcing their desire to build in Miami and Miami Beach. Two South Florida legislators, State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Broward) and State Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami) introduced a measure in Tallahassee last month which would allow up to three destination resort casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward.
The proposal has sharply divided political powers across the state. Former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, former Democratic state senator Dan Gelber, Disney Resorts, as well as the various Indian tribes of Florida and the Catholic Church have all come out against the expansion of casino gambling.
But groups such as Genting are spending millions on a lobbying team that includes former Republican Congressman Lincoln Diaz Balart and former Miami Beach Mayor Neisen Kasdin. They are promising 100,000 new jobs and $1.7 billion a year in new taxes for the state.
But while legislators and lobbyists have been arguing the merits of expanding casino gambling in South Florida, no one has bothered to ask the public if they are in favor of such a move.
In addition to this question, the January 31 ballot would also include the candidates for the Republican presidential primary and a series of charter reform questions to reshape county government.