In My Opinion
Gambling industry is selling an illusion
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
The gambler always thinks he’s going to win.
The gambler always thinks this time he’s got his game on, that he’s holding a lucky hand, that the move he’s about to make is the one to save him from the losing streak.
That’s the illusion the gaming industry sells.
It’s the same brand of illusion the suave Malaysian and Las Vegas casino moguls making the rounds in South Florida are peddling to the populace, the press and politicians all too eager to applaud ready-made deals.
Already, the gaming tables are set up:
• Malaysia’s Genting bought the waterfront land of the Omni-Miami Herald properties and set up shop in Tallahassee to procure casino gambling approval from the Legislature to build the world’s largest casino complex — 5,200 hotel rooms, some 50 restaurants and three times the gambling space of the largest casino in Las Vegas.
• Vegas mogul Steve Wynn wants the Miami Beach Convention Center site and made his pitch Wednesday to the mayor and the city manager over a lunch of our famous stone crabs, no less. (An ironic setting given that one of the big fears is that family-owned businesses like Joe’s Stone Crab are likely to loose from the displacement such a drastic transformation of our tourism economy would bring, but this is not an industry that worries about moral gestures).
• And both Wynn and Las Vegas’ Sands have eyed 20 acres of land near the old Miami Arena site, known as the Miami World Center, as an ideal spot for another mega casino resort.
Anybody else feel like hanging a “No Trespassing” sign?
Not the town’s gamblers, those local leaders who think they’re holding the winning hand.
Not state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Republican from Fort Lauderdale who says she wants “an intellectually honest debate” — then proceeds to brand as anti-capitalists anyone who opposes casino gambling resorts in Miami.
Not the hired hands of the casino moguls, who’re busy promising that casino resorts will bring thousands of jobs to the unemployed masses and lure hundreds of thousands of high-end, game-loving tourists from Asia and Latin America.
Jobs and tourists flowing into Miami like coins from a bell-ringing jackpot.
Those willing to gamble away Miami’s future on such promises made their exaggerated pitches this week to the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, throwing around
lots of billion-dollar figures to rousing applause.
A gamblers’ delusion is heady stuff.
But those multi-billion-dollar investments are only a win-win for casino owners tapped out in their markets and in need of new revenues (and maybe for
locals already on their payroll). When it comes to operations, the gambling industry will bring its people, the unemployed in Vegas and elsewhere with experience in the industry, for whom running a new casino in a fantasy location like Miami will be a promotion.
Resort casinos would bring almost a million more tourists a month to Miami-Dade and Broward, according to the math of St. Thomas Business School Dean Tony Villamil, whose firm was hired by Genting to do an economic impact study.
This illusion is easier to dash: Ever heard of an economist, or any expert for that matter, hired by a firm come up with an opposing view? And who wants one million more tourists a month on our inadequate roads, tapping our water and sewer and emergency services? This is home, you know.
We’re in a recession like everyone else, but we don’t need the quick-fix charity of a dominant, insular, and highly risky industry that has done little to elevate the places where it exists. The promoters can’t point to a single place in the United States we can compare to, but urge us to check out Singapore, and are so condescending they venture to add that we’ve probably never been there, and thus wouldn’t know all we’re missing.
Hogwash. They need us.
Tourists from around the world already come to South Florida for all we have to offer — a unique geography, enviable beaches, world-class cuisine served in distinctive award-winning restaurants, world-class arts, a variety of special annual events, and a diverse, international culture. We deliver high-end, middle-end and budget vacations a short drive from the Keys and Walt Disney World. We’ve a got vibrant port, a cruise ship industry and sporting franchises.
We already attract the South American crowd, that’s why the gambling moguls are working so hard to be here, to siphon what we already have, what has taken us decades to build. For our established businesses to cash-in on the growing Asian tourism market, we don’t need casino gambling, but a targeted strategy from business leaders.
We’re being dealt a losing hand, and we’ve got little to gain and a lot to lose.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/11/v-fullstory/2497979/gambling-industry-is-selling-an.html#ixzz1dV0ulnCW