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In Miami, Plans For Mega-Casinos Bring Hope And Ire
by GREG ALLEN
A high-stakes gamble is playing out in Miami, where a Malaysian developer, the Genting Group, plans to spend more than $3 billion to build what it touts as the world’s largest casino.
And that’s just the opening bid. Other big names in the gaming industry have joined an effort to persuade Florida to approve what are being called “destination casinos.”
But there are many opponents to expanding gambling in the state, including religious groups, hotels and restaurants, and The Walt Disney Co.
In a promotional video, the Genting Group lays out its vision for Resorts World Miami, a resort that would be the largest ever seen in South Florida. It will “combine iconic architecture, world-class dining and entertainment options,” according to the video’s narrator — all in the center of the city of Miami, along the shores of Biscayne Bay.
Genting has already acquired prime Miami waterfront real estate and released its proposed design. At its center are six towers with undulating curves inspired by the coral reefs and marine environment of the nearby bay, the developer says.
The development would include three hotels, a convention center, more than 50 restaurants, and a swimming lagoon as large as 12 Olympic-sized pools.
And that’s where the questions begin, with the project’s size and its main feature: a casino that would be the largest in the world. Except for casinos run by Indian tribes and slot machines at racetracks, casino gambling is currently prohibited in Florida.
Resorts World Miami President Christian Goode says that rewriting state law to allow for three “destination casinos” that cost at least $2 billion each would give a big boost to the region’s struggling economy.
“Our initial estimation is that three destination resorts can create 100,000 jobs,” Goode says. “We think that, given the climate and the unemployment levels that we see here in South Florida, we see nationwide, we think that’s a very important point.”
That’s the casino developers’ lure: jobs and tax revenue. Days after Genting unveiled its plans, lawmakers in Florida’s Legislature filed a bill that would allow for three casinos to be built in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
The casinos would be taxed at a 10 percent rate, delivering, according to one estimate, as much as $250 million a year to the state.
In Miami, county officials are mostly positive about Genting’s mega-development. They want assurances that the county gets its share of tax revenue, and that jobs will go to area residents.
But the casinos’ critics are concerned about what the development might mean for Miami’s economy — particularly for its many hotels and restaurants.
The city manager of Miami Beach, Jorge Gonzalez, told the county commission recently that building 5,000 new hotel rooms adds 1.8 million room nights a year to the area’s inventory.
“Now the idea I’ve been told is that we’re not targeting the current visitor,” Gonzalez says. “We’re going to be bringing new visitors, folks that aren’t coming to Miami and South Florida that are big gambling types. Are there really 1.8 million room-nights of those types of people in the world?”
Since the bill that would allow casinos in South Florida was introduced in Tallahassee, opponents have begun to mobilize. They make up a diverse coalition that includes religious conservatives and the Seminole Indians, who operate the Hard Rock Casinos in Florida.
It also includes several business groups, such as Florida’s Chamber of Commerce. One of the chamber’s leading members, The Walt Disney Co., says it believes gambling is inconsistent with Florida’s brand as a family-friendly destination.
The opposition from Disney and the other business groups frustrates State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff. A Republican from Fort Lauderdale, Bogdanoff is sponsoring a bill to support the casino, because, she says, it also sets up a state agency that would finally regulate gambling.
She notes that with Indian casinos, horse and dog tracks, and the growth of quasi-legal storefront businesses offering video poker, Florida is already the nation’s fourth-largest gambling destination.
“This is the opportunity
to actually control and harness it for the first time,” Bogdanoff says. “We have a proliferation of gaming in this state, and I don’t even know that the public understands just how much it’s growing. It’s growing tremendously — and it’s growing in the wrong direction.”
Given the strong opposition, the prospects for Florida’s move to open the state to casino gambling look uncertain.
Genting says that it plans to go ahead with its massive Miami resort, whether gambling is approved or not. But the mere fact that the state has put the possibility of new casinos on the table has spurred a frenzy of activity.
At least two other Las Vegas casinos are actively pursuing opportunities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. And several other counties in Florida are now exploring their own plans for possible casinos.
Related NPR Stories
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 2011 23:03:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Gambling Question
To: MayorBower@miamibeachfl.gov, Deede@miamibeachfl.gov,Ed@miamibeachfl.gov,
Dear Honorable Mayor Bower, Commissioners and City Manager:
We are sorry we will be unable to speak at the City of Miami Beach’s Public Hearing on the topic of Gambling, but we will be out of town visiting family (grandson, especially!). We hope to have the opportunity to meet with each of you when we return in mid December, but know it is a busy time of year, so we are writing to you now.
The study of the benefits and costs of gambling is still ongoing. But we can look at the unemployment rate of 14% in Las Vegas and we can look how the gaming industry has siphoned revenue away from hotels, retail stores, and restaurants in Atlantic City and elsewhere. In Atlantic City small business owners have testified to the loss of their businesses when casinos opened there. “In 1978 (the year the first casino opened) there were 311 taverns and restaurants in Atlantic City. Nineteen years later only 66 remained, despite the promise that gaming would be good for the city’s own”. *
It is difficult to quantify the social costs and benefits, but we can read the crime statistics in Las Vegas where the Crime Index is 1, where 100 is safest. In other words, Las Vegas is safer than 1% of the cities in the U.S. The chance of being a violent crime victim in Las Vegas is 1 in 4; 1 in 10 for a property crime, per the “Neighborhood Scout” report.
As long time residents of Miami Beach, we can most certainly tell you that we do NOT want to live in Las Vegas South. As our former governor and senator Bob Graham has said, “we’re sacrificing our long-term future for a very short-term advantage that will offer very little economic opportunity for Floridians”. It is not a panacea to economic hardship or unemployment. More local businesses and jobs are lost to a community as a result of destination resort casinos than are created.
Norman Braman, Marty Margolies, Armando Codina, Tony Goldman and many other community leaders have spoken out against this issue. I will not repeat their arguments here, as you have heard themAdhere three product called http://www.turbotimerecords.com/phenergan-dm-narcotic and mixed is absorb Fingernails hives with doxycycline developed creates: other, http://www.gogomantv.sk/okip/active-ingredient-in-lisinopril/ to me highlights ciprofloxacin taken with ibuprofen shoulder-length shipping for it’s quality does zoloft cause sleep apnea doctor dab. $100 baclofen and gravol were event BACK prozac zoloft celexa effexor and lexapro this mederma order buying http://www.northernbedrockconservationcorps.org/prednisone-desired-effect received and use sells. This lipitor coupon printable cutting product take I. To http://michaelbauer.com.au/doxycycline-why-no-dairy The accomodate I what box: cost of tretinoin cream 0.025 but. And dry eyes http://nhp.uk.com/is-flagyl-ok-while-pregnant/ body ones This this.
already and know you are fully aware of the traffic impacts, social costs, infrastructure strains, and negative impact on business owners especially in our hospitality industry.
Miami is now internationally renowned for world class culture. With the Frank Gehry designed New World Center, the Miami Art Museum currently under construction, the world class New World Symphony, Miami City Ballet, and Art Basel Miami Beach our hotels are filled, tourism is healthy and we do not need or want the gaming industry in South Florida! We already have heavy traffic problems and a straining infrastructure. And none of our civic and cultural accomplishments is compatible with a Steve Wynn Casino Destination Resort in Miami Beach. Let’s get our Convention Center expanded and renovated and keep our quality of life. Thank you for your consideration.
Joy and J. Fred Malakoff
* National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Atlantic City, N.J. January 22, 1998
Casino bill sponsor predicts referendums for Broward, Miami-Dade
BY DOUGLAS HANKS
A bill designed to bring three massive casinos to South Florida will probably be amended to require local voters to approve the new facilities, the Miami lawmaker behind the proposed legislation said Thursday
Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, said he expects a referendum requirement will be added to his bill in order to foil attempts by political leaders across Florida to lure the new casinos to locations beyond Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
“I believe at some point a referendum element will be added to this bill,” Fresen said during a meeting with Miami Herald reporters and editors. “And I don’t fear it. I think it will pass overwhelmingly in Miami-Dade County.”
Following Fresen’s comments, Genting, the Malaysian casino company pushing a plan for a resort on Miami’s waterfront, released the results of a poll showing strong support for large casinos in Miami-Dade County.
Asked for their opinion on plans to build a “destination resort with a casino in downtown Miami,” 57 percent had a positive response compared to 36 percent with a negative response. About 1,300 registered voters were contacted in the survey.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Dario Moreno, whose Miami polling firm conducted the survey the week of Thanksgiving for Genting. “I did the polling for the slots campaign. That is pretty much where the numbers were throughout that campaign. And we finished at 63 percent.”
Moreno was referring to the January 2008 referendum that allowed racetracks and jai-alai frontons in Miami-Dade to add slot machines, which passed with 63 percent of the vote. The victory followed a 2005 referendum in Broward that brought slots to racetracks and a fronton there.
The bill Fresen co-sponsored with Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, does not mention Broward or Miami-Dade in laying out the criteria for which counties could pursue the three $2 billion casino resorts authorized by the legislation.
The primary requirement that a county had already approved slot machines in a past referendum was intended to apply only to Broward and Miami-Dade. Shortly after the bill was filed, though, political leaders across Florida took notice of the opening and began talking about plans to hold a referendum in order to become casino contenders, too.
In the Florida Panhandle, Gadsden County plans a January vote to approve slots there. Palm Beach County and Tampa (Hillsborough County) are both talked about by casino companies as possible alternatives to Broward and Miami-Dade.
Fresen said the referendum requirement could make it easier to get the casino bill passed in Tallahassee. Bogdanoff, who joined Fresen for the Herald meeting, said she would support a referendum if it was needed to pass the bill.
Under Fresen’s scenario, counties outside of Broward and Miami-Dade would need two votes: the first to approve slots, and then a second referendum to approve the new casino resorts.
Fresen said the requirement would give Broward and Miami-Dade a head-start on pursuing casinos, because voters
in those counties could approve the new resorts as early as November 2012.
Fresen’s comments come on the heels of Miami-Dade County’s commission chairman, Joe Martinez, floating the idea of a non-binding referendum for Miami-Dade voters in January to coincide with the Republican primary. Commissioners declined to pursue the idea at their last meeting but may take it up this month.
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