Changes To Gambling Bill Has S. Floridians Taking Sides

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s a new twist in a casino controversy that has people taking sides. The legislation proposed to bring mega destination gambling resorts to South Florida is changing and expanding gambling even more to include pari-mutuels.

On Thursday morning, as slot machines were ringing away legislatures were shuffling amendments into a state senate bill that could change gambling in South Florida drastically.

Magic Casino’s Vice President, Izzy Havenick, can be skeptical but he’s optimistic.

“I know I wouldn’t want to bet on the outcome of anything with this bill,”

Changes to the bill to bring up to three mega casinos in South Florida now include him.

New language allows pari-mutuels to obtain a pseudo-destination resort license. They would get all the card games, at a greatly reduced investment fee, just $225 million instead of $2 billion.

“Family business like ours would be forced to take on partners and forced for to find somebody to come and help us,” Havenick said.

Certainly Las Vegas casinos would be willing to double down.

Pari-mutuels is one of 30 plus changes being made. The biggest change though will be for residents in the community. No matter where you fall in the gambling argument and no matter what legislators say residents would now be able to vote casinos up or down.

“I think we should have a say because we live here,” Troy Murray, who is for casinos, said. “Not Tallahassee, not anywhere else, people in South Florida, we should have a say in it.”

But Melissa Latus, who is against casinos said,”I think we need to take control before and let the common man be heard with what they want to do before it gets spun out by all the lobbyist.”

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce now endorses the development of casino resorts in South Florida.

According to CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald, the region’s largest business group now backs the push to expand the state’s gambling laws, but only if some of the gambling taxes go to local government and county voters can decide the gambling issue by referendum.

The Chamber resolution also calls for casinos to hire 75 percent of their workforce locally and requires casinos to fund efforts to mitigate damage caused by the new facilities, including social issues and infrastructure costs.

The Chamber also wants equal treatment for pari-mutuels, which refer to existing racetracks and jai-alai frontons, which want to pay the same gambling tax and be allowed to offer the same table games as the new bill would give mega casinos.

Shortly after the Chamber vote, the Malaysian casino company proposing a nearly $4 billion casino resort on the Miami waterfront issued a statement praising the decision.

The vote “demonstrates the strong consensus that exists among business and civic leaders who recognize the benefits these projects will bring to our community,’’ read the part of the statement from Resorts World Miami, the name of the Genting project slated for land that currently houses the Miami Herald and the Omni complex.

“Eventually I think the legislature will have to decide if Florida is going in the gambling direction or not,” Havenick said.

From here the bill goes to a committee on Monday.

Should it pass it will move on to the legislature. All indications are right now that the bill is not going to pass and South Floridians will not see a casino coming out of the Miami Herald site any time soon, CBS4’s David Sutta reported.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)


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