Competition Game Between Broward and Dade Being Staged?

Broward, Miami-Dade possible homes for Las Vegas Sands project

South Florida Business Journal by Oscar Pedro Musibay, Reporter

Date: Thursday, December 1, 2011, 2:57pm EST – Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2011, 3:07pm EST

Oscar Pedro Musibay

Las Vegas Sands Corp. , which has been linked to the Miami Worldcenter site in downtown Miami, is also seriously considering Broward County as a possible home, according to one of its Tallahassee-based lobbyists.

Nick Iarossi, founding member of Capital City Consulting, spoke to the Business Journal about his client’s strategy. On Tuesday, he spoke at a panel on gambling sponsored the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.

Sands (NYSE: LVS), which positions itself as a convention/trade show-centric company, would be looking for about 40 acres with proximity to airports and strong roadway infrastructure.

Iarossi said his client has looked at sites in both counties, but won’t make a commitment on its development plan until after the destination resort legislation is approved.

The scope of the project, which would likely

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include at least a half-million square feet of convention space, would depend on several variables, including the tax rate imposed on destination resorts. The higher the tax rate, the smaller the scope and investment, Iarossi said.

There are still a lot of twists and turns to come as the legislation makes its way through the Legislature. Pari-mutuels are voicing strong opposition to the current bills as long as they give exclusive authority to destination resorts for expanded, Las Vegas-style games and as long as their tax rate is different from what destination resorts would have to pay.

But some wrinkles are already developing in the original legislation: Destination gambling resort legislation will morph to provide tax parity between the newcomers and existing pari-mutuels, state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff said at the Tuesday forum.

As for continued opposition from business groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Attractions Association , Iarossi doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.

“These are embedded interests concerned about protecting the current market,” he said.

Iarossi said a waterfront site like Bayside Marketplace in Miami wouldn’t work, citing height restrictions and the site’s limited size.

He also said Sands had not evaluated the 190-acre parcel in North Miami where the massive Biscayne Landing mixed-use project stalled during the economic meltdown. Developer Michael Swerdlow, who is seeking to develop the site, has said he is open to adding gambling to his mixed-use plan, but has heard from his consultant that the area’s limited road capacity eliminates it from consideration.

Iarossi said the city’s mayor had contacted his client about the parcel, but it is unclear whether Sands will pursue it.

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