Monthly Archives: November 2011

Miami Herald Notes Growing Intensity of Casino Debate

Community leaders are increasingly divided on the issue of allowing destination resort casinos in South Florida.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

On Genting’s Resorts World Miami:

“It’s unique for somebody to come make that kind of major investment in this town and not get a warm reception,” said Jack Lowell, former chairman of the Beacon Council and a supporter of gambling. “If Genting had a more modest project on the books, I think that this criticism would not even be there.”

On concern over the impact of destination resorts on the community:

“This is one of those ideas that when you first opened up the wrapping paper, it looks interesting,” said Dan Gelber, who has volunteered to lead the South Florida effort of No Casinos. “But as soon as you figure out what’s inside you want to get it of your house. The only hope was to do it quickly. The longer it sits the smellier it gets.”

On why Genting’s proposed project is so big:

“I think the legislature is basically mandating the size based on the capital requirements,” said John Sumberg, managing partner of Bilzin Sumberg, who represents Genting and local pari-mutuels. “You can’t expect somebody to invest $2 billion and build something tiny. It can be designed to fit into the community.”

On gambling:

“Gambling is a last resort for cities that are in dire straits,” said Tony Goldman, president of Goldman Properties, which owns significant property in Wynwood. “It’s a completely self-interested business to the detriment of everything around it. The whole notion is about keeping the consumer inside to commandeer all their money in-house and not let a dime out of their doors.”

 

BY ELAINE WALKER

EWALKER@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Depending on your perspective, destination resort casinos will either cure all that ails the South Florida economy or send us on the road to ruin.

Six months ago the community was abuzz over Genting’s $236 million purchase of The Miami Herald property to create a destination resort that would lure tourists from Asia and Latin America. We quickly became the popular girl at the dance being courted by U.S. casino magnates like Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson, all checking potential sites around South Florida.

It looked like the tide might have turned in Florida, where voters have defeated casino gambling on statewide initiatives for decades. But then in the last month, the tide started to shift. As anticipation builds toward a legislative debate over the issue in 2012, community leaders are growing increasingly divided on whether this is the answer for our economy.

For every group that’s in favor — Latin Builders Association — there’s another that’s opposed — Florida Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s disingenuous to say we shouldn’t have gambling, when it’s already here,” said Bernie Navarro, president of the Latin Builders. “Let’s create something with economic benefits.”

Many of those leading the fight against it are no strangers to this issue: Businessmen Norman Braman and Armando Codina, along with former politicians Bob Graham and Dan Gelber.

“We’re sacrificing our long-term future for a very short-term advantage that will offer very little economic opportunity for Floridians,” said Graham, the former governor and senator who vows to support the fight to defeat the proposal. “It is a mirage to think that if casino gambling is established in Dade and Broward counties that it will be isolated. It’s not just South Florida defining its future, it’s the state determining its economic future.”

Others joining the anti-gambling chorus, include developers Marty Margulies and Tony Goldman and Beacon Council President Frank Nero. They see a casino as derailing progress Miami has made, including growing a biomedical industry and an arts community.

“This is just going to destroy the moral fiber of this community,” Margulies said. “The leaders of this community need to stand up and say, ‘We don’t want gambling and all the social problems that go with it.’ ”

If gambling is to happen, supporters are going to need to find a way to gain the endorsement of a growing group of business and political leaders who are willing to consider gambling — with certain caveats.

These are the people who aren’t philosophically opposed to gambling but fear Miami’s turning into Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

“The worst thing that could happen to Miami is for us to become the next gambling city of the Americas,” said condo developer Jorge Perez, who is undecided on gambling but vows to oppose the prospect of two casinos downtown. “People are going to be weighing the short-term economic benefit of a mass casino project in downtown versus the probable negative impact in the long term.”

Perez is one of many worried about the impact two nearby casinos would have on traffic and surrounding businesses. Vegas Sands and Wynn have looked at the Miami World Center site, only blocks from the Genting site on Biscayne Bay.

Leaders of the Adrienne Arsht Center have voiced similar concerns. Ditto for Miami Heat owner and Carnival Cruise Lines CEO Micky Arison. He expects traffic nightmares that will turn off basketball fans and generally disrupt Miami’s urban revival. Even Mayor Tomas Regalado has recently hedged his support for Genting’s proposal.

Jeff Soffer, owner of Fontainebleau Miami Beach, fears that the way the casino bill is written, it will have a major impact on his business, currently the largest hotel in the county.

“When you have a casino downstairs you can sell rooms for less to get people to spend money,” said Soffer, who has long envisioned a casino for Fontainebleau. “This will drop room rates in South Florida by 50 percent and put thousands of people out of work.”

At the heart of many objectors is the proposed size of Genting’s Resorts World Miami. As the plans stand, Genting hopes to build the world’s largest casino, 5,200 rooms and more than 50 restaurants and bars. But Genting leaders acknowledge that could change.

“That’s what our vision is, but do we get there? Who knows?” said Christian Goode, president of Resorts World Miami. “It’s still a work in progress. The market dictates what we will end up building.”

Las Vegas Sands’ position is that only one destination resort casino should be approved initially to give the area time to absorb the project before expanding. The bill could yield up to two for Miami-Dade County and one for Broward.

“Start slow and be cautious,” Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands, said Tuesday at a Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce panel discussion. “Bigger is not better.”

Even some who support casino gambling admit it’s not their first choice. But with unemployment standing at 10 percent, some business leaders are willing to accept the tradeoffs.

“The community needs a shot in the arm in a big way and gambling would do that,” said Raul Valdes-Fauli, president and chief executive of Professional Bank and Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce board member. “I wish it were some other vehicle for job creation, but this is what’s here. I’m willing to swallow the bitter pill of gambling to help the economy.”

Genting has said it expects to create 50,000 construction jobs and 100,000 permanent ones.

Yet some civic leaders aren’t convinced about the accuracy of those numbers and want them fully vetted by independent consultants, before this issue is decided.

“The promise of this being the economic salvation is an awful big load for a casino to carry,” said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has not taken a position on gambling. “Three major destination resorts will change the character of who South Florida is. We are not ready to make that decision. There is no reason something has to be done right away. There are a lot of question that need to be answered.”

Most of Miami’s major civic groups have yet to take an official position on the gambling proposal. That list includes the Beacon Council, Greater Miami Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association and the Downtown Development Authority.

“If gambling is done right, it can be a catalyst for economic development, but if it’s done wrong there can be a down side,” said Alyce Robertson, executive director of the Miami Downtown Development Authority, which hasn’t taken a position. “It’s important that they remember they are part of an overall community and take into consideration their neighbors.”

As the legislative session nears, there’s growing concern about the gravity of this decision.

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale and the bill’s co-sponsor, warned Tuesday that the 2012 legislative leadership is likely to be more receptive than the group that will follow.

“To me it’s now or never,” said Bogdanoff, who fears the wrong kind of gambling would continue to grow in Florida. “Five years from now we’ll become the No. 1 gaming state because nobody is going to do anything.”

Miami Herald Staff Writer Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/29/v-fullstory/2524049/casino-debate-grows-in-intensity.html#ixzz1fCYTC4C6

Destination Casino Advocate Fresen Badly Needs Cash. We Wonder Where He Could Look For It?

From www.eyeonmiami.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Erik Fresen’s Tax Lien and Foreclosure: Brother Can You Spare a Dime? By Geniusofdespair

Florida State Rep and gambling shill Erik Fresen is carrying two IRS tax liens one from 2004 for $21,925.23 and a second for $7,274.37 from 2007 – total due as of May 5th 2011 $29,199.60. There was also a final judgment for foreclosure on August 25, 2009 for $641,141.15 but Erik is still in the house. The property was quit-claimed to Erik by a relative a month after the relative bought it for $625,000. I looked up the deal, the property had a final judgment on Aug. 25, 2009 and was due for foreclosure sale Mar. 03, 2010 but it is still tied up in court. Last action on the docket was 6/2/2011 when an attorney was changed.

I guess we can’t really blame Fresen for pushing these mega-casinos down our throats. He obviously needs A LOT of cash. I don’t know how he can milk the casino money for personal

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gain, but somehow U.S. Congressman David Rivera managed to get gambling bucks, through deals with his God and real Mother, when he was with the State legislature.

I am always surprised that people will vote a person in office that can’t even manage their OWN finances. Who wants them near ours? And, the more in debt they are, the worse the policy they tend to promote. His counterpart in the Senate sponsoring the gambling bill there, Ellyn Bogdanoff, is drawing money for “expenses” from her Committee Creating Possibilities that I find excessive.

Needed: Better State Regulation of Gaming – But Meyer Lansky? Hardly the Fresen-Bogdanoff Bill

Where’s Meyer Lansky when you need him?

BY FRED GRIMM- from the Miami Herald Nov 28, 2011

FGRIMM@MIAMIHERALD.COM

At least when Meyer Lansky ran the show someone was in charge.

Gambling had a boss, albeit one whose enforcement techniques may have been a bit harsher than those employed by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. But with Meyer, we didn’t suffer this pervasive sense of anarchy, with one new gambling proposal piled atop of another, with no coherent state policy. You might say Lansky had a “strategic vision.”

Meyer ran some 50 illegal gambling operations in South Florida, the Miami Herald reported in 1948 (on the way to its first Pulitzer Prize). He ran casinos and provided a central clearing house for South Florida bookmakers.

And he was famously strict about stuff like the integrity of the games. Gamblers could have more confidence in the casinos Lansky ran in Hallandale — places like Club Boheme, the Green Acres, the Colonial Inn and the Plantation casinos inland — than the thousand or so unregulated strip mall slot joints that have sprung up like weeds across Florida. Everybody knew what happened if a dealer got caught cheating a customer at a Lansky joint. No one regulates the gaming machines at an Internet café.

Lansky may have been a New York City boy, but he could have defined horse racing, something that seems to have flummoxed the state of Florida. Last week, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Racing shrugged off a challenge to barrel racing as a legal pari-mutuel in Florida.

The Florida Quarter Horse Association contends that a horse track in Gretna was trying to circumvent state law and common sense by substituting a low-rent rodeo sport for an actual horse race. You know, an event in which a bunch of horses run around an oval. First one around wins.

Apparently, the Florida Legislature never got around to exactly saying that, perhaps assuming everyone already knew what the hell occurred on a racetrack. But the Division of Pari-Mutuel Racing noted that state statute makes “no mention of any type of ‘race’ conducted by Florida pari-mutuel facilities but only refers to ‘performances.’ ”

Gretna Racing LLC intends to race a herd of cowboy horses through that “performance” loophole; deciding that barrel racing, a rodeo sport, would be a cheaper excuse for poker rooms and slot machines than staging competitions among much more expensive quarter horses.

It was never about racing. On Jan. 31, Gadsden County residents will vote on whether to allow slot machines at the (barrel) race track. Similar racino referendums are suddenly contemplated in Jasper, West Palm Beach and Naples. Whether animals are urged around oval tracks or through an obstacle course doesn’t matter. Counties outside of South Florida figure they’ve got the same right to install slot machines as Broward and Miami-Dade counties. No one in Tallahassee has said they can. No one has said they can’t.

“No one’s in charge. There’s no control,” said Bob Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University and an expert on Florida gambling law. Or at least as much as an expert as someone can be, studying this anarchic mishmash. At least, with the old-time Florida mob bosses, Jarvis said, gambling was strictly organized. None of this willy-nilly stuff.

Meyer Lansky would have hardly allowed interlopers in West Palm Beach or Jasper or Gretna or Naples to wreck a $1.25 billion five-year exclusivity deal worked out with Seminole Indians. Jarvis said that if racinos open up in any county outside Broward or Miami-Dade, “that could end the compact.”

Jarvis doubts that the other big gambling deal percolating in Tallahassee, the controversial “destination casino” bill in the Legislature sponsored by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and Rep. Erik Fresen, will get through this session. (“It’s dead on arrival,” he said.) But he notes that one element of the bill would create a gambling commission to establish, as the authors put it, “a strategic vision for gaming,” and to guard the integrity of the games.

“Florida needs a centralized regulatory oversight,” Jarvis said. “If Florida wants to attract serious gamblers, then the state needs the kind of oversight they have in Nevada and New Jersey.”

Without Meyer Lansky, a Florida Gambling Commission sounds like the next best thing.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/28/2522527/wheres-meyer-lansky-when-you-need.html#ixzz1f63ccP3R

Marian Del Vecchio- Miami Beach Perspective

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Braman View

CASINO RESORTS

Casino resorts? Braman says don’t buy the hype

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Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald Staff

BY NORMAN BRAMAN

I believe “destination resort casinos” are an assault on the quality of life of our community and must be well-scrutinized and defeated lest we lose the advantages our community has struggled to offer its citizens — and its tourists. One only need examine the promises that were made to other cities regarding casinos and gambling, and compare the results to those promises.

There is a reason they are called “destination” casinos: they maintain control of their patrons by virtue of “comps,” discounts and other incentives for their numerous on-site, casino-owned operations, including restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. They are loath to see patrons leave their facilities even to have a meal. Thus, in Atlantic City most retail establishments, including restaurants, no longer are in business.

Jack Lowell, who wrote exuberantly in a Nov. 10 column in support for the Genting Group’s Singapore operations, leaves many questions unanswered. He has refused to identify the South Floridians who accompanied him on that Singapore junket and who paid for it.

On the subject of disclosures, shouldn’t Genting, which bought The Miami Herald and Omni properties, as well as the Las Vegas casino operators who want to open casinos here, disclose the names of the lobbyists they have hired, the amount of money they have pumped into campaign coffers of our legislators and what PACs these companies have established or contributed to in an effort to sway public opinion?

It is not in Miami’s best interest to become another Las Vegas, with an unemployment rate at 14 percent and a leader in housing foreclosures. Compare those facts with Lowell’s statements about Singapore’s so-called “economic boost,” and contrast it with Miami-Dade County, where, without big-time gambling, hotel occupancy is booming.

Moreover, supporters of casinos ignore the huge costs we will have to bear for infrastructure improvements and ongoing public safety. Miami does not need to become a magnet for the type of undesirable individuals who are drawn to a gambling community, where crimes such as murder, prostitution, robberies and drugs become more prevalent. According to the Detroit Free Press, several communities near casinos reported more child neglect and spousal abuse.

We have made great strides over the years. We have become a destination for regional and hemispheric bank headquarters and financial institutions from all over the world and are on the cusp of establishing a viable bioscience presence. These types of businesses, which create quality positions paying significant salaries, are non-existent in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

When casino supporters speak about jobs, they fail to state that the average salary of these “thousands of jobs” (many of which would be transferred to Miami from their other casinos) would average $33,000 a year, as Genting’s President Colin Au told me. That is hardly enough to buy a home or educate one’s children. This is not to denigrate our hard-working residents or any job. I know how tough times can create difficulties for our people. I merely seek to compare businesses and the potential futures they offer. Research has shown that more local businesses and jobs are lost to a community as a result of destination resort casinos than are created.

Miami benefits from world class culture. Art Basel Miami Beach, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, is universally recognized as the premiere art fair in the United States and will bring to our community 40,000 visitors from all over the world. The new Miami Art Museum now is under construction and the Museum of Contemporary Art has announced a major addition. Our Miami Science Museum will be built soon. Miami also has gained greatly from all the events at its world-renowned Adrienne Arsht Center, including becoming the winter home of the Cleveland Orchestra, one of the five great orchestras in the world.

And who can forget the wonderful addition of the Frank Gehry New World Center, which recently opened in Miami Beach to heralded acclaim or the Miami City Ballet and New World Symphony Orchestra, both of which are recognized worldwide. None of our civic and cultural achievements is compatible with a Las Vegas/Atlantic City/ Singapore gambling mecca. The Genting Group’s Singapore casino is located on an island and there are major restrictions on residents from entering the casino. Monte Carlo has become a refuge for tax evaders and a haven for white-collar criminals.

Lowell and others protest South Florida’s Indian gaming, store-front “games of skills” enterprises and pari-mutuels as being unregulated and frequented only by locals. Their cure? Bring in big-time gambling for well-heeled tourists! This is a non-sequitur. Why isn’t enforcement of existing laws the cure for any illegal local gambling, if it exists?

If we accept the reasoning that three casinos will generate $6 billion of investment plus 30,000 jobs, why not have 10 casinos to generate $18 billion of investment plus 90,000 jobs? Why stop at three?

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What are we afraid of? If it is the destruction of our quality of life, as I suggest, then shouldn’t we prohibit big-time gaming casinos entirely? Our state legislators should not risk destroying our community.

I fear that passage of legislation sponsored by Rep. Erik Fresen and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff not only will transpose Miami into another Las Vegas and our state into another Nevada. It will create a malignancy that will attack our wonderful, culturally diverse community that we have worked hard to create. Sure, we have a way to go to strengthen and protect it. We are working on that. However, we must guard against any supposed quick fix.

Norman Braman is a businessman and civic leader.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/26/v-fullstory/2516456/casino-resorts-braman-says-dont.html#ixzz1exrTk5PS

Miami Beach Residents Confront Destination Casinos – NOW

Nov. 26, 2011

ALERT FOR: Miami Beach Residents

FROM: Frank Del Vecchio, 301 Ocean Drive

Billionaire Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn is trying to squelch Miami Beach opposition to destination casinos by dangling the possibility that he will build a convention/casino complex for us. [“Las Vegas mogul endorses Beach for casino site”, Nov. 10 Herald article by Douglas Hanks.] http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/09/2494150/las-vegas-gambling-mogul-eyes.html#storylink=misearch

This dangerous flirtation distracts us from the clear and present danger of a massive casino/convention center on the Herald/Omni site. The “Destination Casino” bill pending in the state legislature must be defeated to clear the way for an upgraded Convention Center on the Beach and avoid the nightmare of gridlock on MacArthur and Venetian Causeways. The casino bill can be defeated in the state legislature, but not if residents buy in to Wynn’s game.

Miami Beach knows better than to be taken in by the Las Vegas hard sell and the illusion of easy money. The sooner we scuttle the “Destination Casino” bill the sooner we can upgrade our convention center, capitalizing on our city’s unique concentration of architecture, pedestrian ambience, art, music and dance, climate and beachfront.

Casino industry hype is so intense, Miami Beach commissioners need confirmation that residents oppose casinos in Miami-Dade. They will vote on this at their December 14 city commission meeting (item to be heard after 5PM).

Opportunities for resident input:
Meet with Mayor Bower, 6:30PM Wed., Dec. 7, Botanical Garden
City Commission Workshop, 4PM, Friday, Dec. 9, Convention Center Hall C, Room 134
Chamber of Commerce “Gaming Forum”, 5:30PM-7:30PM Tuesday, Dec. 13, Convention Center Hall D
City Commission discussion item, after 5PM Wed., Dec. 14, city commission chambers
Residents should e-mail the mayor and commissioners on this matter: MayorBower@miamibeachfl.gov, Deede@miamibeachfl.gov, Ed@miamibeachfl.gov, Jerry@miamibeachfl.gov, Jonah@miamibeachfl.gov, Michael@miamibeachfl.gov, Jorge@miamibeachfl.gov

Promises, Promises? When Will we Learn? From the Miami Herald

Gambling
Casino debate revives concerns over broken promises

Sponsors of a bill to bring “destination resort’ casinos to Florida make no revenue promises, but opponents warn that dashed hopes are inevitable.

Florida’s proposed 10% casino tax called jackpot for industry
BY MARY ELLEN KLAS

TALLAHASSEE — The press conference called by the heads of South Florida’s horse and dog tracks in October 2004 had one goal in mind: to counter voter skepticism.
After nearly two decades of partially kept promises that the Florida Lottery would benefit education, the industry was struggling to persuade voters that if they supported a constitutional amendment to give the South Florida tracks slot machines, the revenues would go to enhance public schools. So the heads of the pari-mutuel industry presented a symbolic check for $500 million to Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, Continue reading Promises, Promises? When Will we Learn? From the Miami Herald

Carl Hiaasen- All Bets are Off

Posted on Saturday, 11.19.11

In my opinion
In casino fight, all bets are off

PATRICK FARRELL / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
BY CARL HIAASEN

CHIAASEN@MIAMIHERALD.COM

An international resort company wants to build a huge casino on the shore of Biscayne Bay, where this newspaper now stands.
Journalists aren’t sentimental but they do appreciate irony. Having editorially crusaded for decades against opening South Florida to Vegas-style gaming, the Herald will soon be humbly relocated to make way for an extravagant $2 billion palace of wagering.
Given the wheezing state of the newspaper industry, we should have negotiated with the buyers to save a little corner of their casino for our newsroom. The weekly take from one row of slot machines would probably Continue reading Carl Hiaasen- All Bets are Off

Public Involvement in Planning ? Beyond Cesar Pelli, by Gregory Bush

Many people have been asking me whether the public cannot be more involved in planning the extraordinary site now owned by Genting – if it does not become a casino destination site – which so many have been fighting in recent weeks. The issue is, of course, more than just Genting because we need to keep the pressure on against other destination resorts taking over as well. However, this threat, in my view, also provides Miami area residents with an opportunity to rethink our needs – somewhat similar to what happened with Bicentennial park back in 2000 when the Marlins desire totake the park was rejected by renewed public involvement- led by the Urban Environment League.

Seeing the future of the Genting owned land should not simply be an exercise for world famous architect/planners and influential business/developers. There should be a parallel public process created with a set of criteria and development principles to help develop this critically important area. We all realize that it is private property but the public should have significant impact on helping to forge its future. If done well this area could absolutely transform Miami and the region. In my view, we do not want another Millennium Park – like Chicago – but we should seek a unique design – even working with Genting if they choose to do so- as long as a resort destination casino is not part of their picture. All to often we try to ape other cities and their development formulas. Yet, in my view, any new plan should include:

-A gorgeous design that would attract major corporate headquarters – and go a long way to pay for the space.
-Integrate cultural center elements (Arsht Center, Science, Art Museums)
-Become thoroughly pedestrian friendly -with walk and bike ways and smart public transportation designs
-contain an attractive Community Center
-provide additional park space
-Allow major waterfront access and generous views of the bay
-Be acutely sensitive to nearby neighborhoods and people friendly walk and bikeways – to Overtown, Venetian Causeway etc
-Respect and enhance historical structures such as Trinity Church, the Boulevard Shops and the Woman’s Club.

Miami should not try to rebrand itself a theme park city or a Casino town but champion itself as a REAL CITY with a vital public that is involved in making smart plans for the future of all its residents. That means adding thousands of additional jobs, stimulating our cultural life, providing more public spaces and attracting businesses and people to live and work in our downtown area. It’s possible to do it with strong and effective leadership towards that end. That’s my perspective.

I’d like to hear other perspectives. These are my own views and do not necessarily express the views of anyone else.

Greg Bush, Urban Environment League
publicbush@gmail.com

ArtPlace
VOL 1, NO. 10: OCT 25, 2011
New Town Square By ArtPlace Miami, FL

Famed urban architect heads Miami’s place-making project

A group of Miami civic leaders Continue reading Public Involvement in Planning ? Beyond Cesar Pelli, by Gregory Bush