Monthly Archives: January 2012

Gingrich, Adelson and Questionable Casino Gambling Ties. This Should Enter into the National Debate: Gambling on the American Future With Government Support for the Thinner Things in Life.

The Man Behind Gingrich’s Money
By MIKE McINTIRE and MICHAEL LUO
Published: January 28, 2012

The trip to Jordan by a group of United States congressmen was supposed to be a chance for them to meet the newly crowned King Abdullah II. But their tour guide had a more complicated agenda.
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Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who is from Israel, have given $17 million in support of Newt Gingrich in recent years.
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Times Topic: Sheldon Adelson
A Big Check, and Gingrich Gets a Big Lift (January 10, 2012)
The Caucus: Miriam Adelson Donates $5 Million to a Pro-Gingrich ‘Super PAC’ (January 23, 2012)

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Sheldon Adelson, right, showed a model of the Venetian, his Las Vegas hotel, to a visiting Russian official, Mikhail Shvydkoi, in 2000.
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Sheldon Adelson, left, met with President Shimon Peres of Israel after giving the charity Birthright Israel nearly $30 million in 2007.
The guide was Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate who helped underwrite trips to the Middle East to win support for Israel in Congress. On this occasion in 1999, as the lawmakers enjoyed a reception at the Royal Palace in Amman, Mr. Adelson and an aide retreated to a private room with the king.

There, the king listened politely as Mr. Adelson sat on a sofa and paged through his proposal for a gambling resort on the Jordan-Israel border to be called the Red Sea Kingdom.

“This was shortly after his father, King Hussein, died, and he was grateful to me,” Mr. Adelson explained later in court testimony, recalling that he had lent his plane when the ailing monarch sought treatment in the United States. “So they remembered.”

The proposal never went anywhere — Mr. Adelson later said he had feared that a Jewish-owned casino on Arab land “would have been blown to smithereens.” But his impromptu pitch to the Jordanian king highlights the boldness, if not audacity, that has propelled Mr. Adelson into the ranks of the world’s richest men and transformed him into a powerful behind-the-scenes player in American and international politics.

Those qualities may also help explain why Mr. Adelson, 78, has decided to throw his wealth behind what had once seemed to be the unlikely presidential aspirations of Newt Gingrich. Now, in no small measure because of Mr. Adelson’s deep pockets, Mr. Gingrich is locked in a struggle with Mitt Romney heading into Florida’s Republican primary on Tuesday.

Mr. Adelson, by some estimates worth as much as $22 billion, presides over a global empire of casinos, hotels and convention centers whose centerpiece is the Venetian in Las Vegas, an exuberant monument to excess with canals, singing gondoliers and acres of slot machines. That fortune is a wellspring of financial support for Mr. Gingrich, who has benefited from $17 million in political contributions from Mr. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, in recent years, including $10 million in the last few weeks that went to a “super PAC” supporting him.

The question of what motivates Mr. Adelson’s singular generosity toward the former House speaker has emerged front and center in the campaign. People who know him say his affinity for Mr. Gingrich stems from a devotion to Israel as well as loyalty to a friend. A fervent Zionist who opposes any territorial compromise to make way for a Palestinian state, Mr. Adelson has long been enamored of Mr. Gingrich’s full-throated defense of Israel.

In December at an event in Israel for a charity he supports, Mr. Adelson made a point of endorsing Mr. Gingrich’s assertion that the Palestinians have no historic claim to a homeland.

“Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians and you will hear why Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented people,” Mr. Adelson said at the event for Birthright Israel, which takes young Jews on trips there.

Mr. Adelson is hardly a household name. He avoids the limelight and rarely speaks to the press, remaining something of an enigma. He declined to be interviewed for this article, but he and his wife issued a statement saying friendship and loyalty are “our motivation for helping Newt.”

Through interviews and a review of Mr. Adelson’s testimony in legal disputes with former associates, a portrait emerges of a formidable and determined striver who lifted himself out of childhood penury in working-class Boston. He has a sentimental streak — on one of his first trips to Israel, he wore the shoes of his late father, a cabdriver from Lithuania who was never able to visit there — and he has given hundreds of millions of dollars to Jewish causes, medical research and injured veterans.

But his rise has not been without controversy. The Justice Department is investigating accusations by a former casino executive that Mr. Adelson’s operations in Macao may have violated federal laws banning corrupt payments to foreign officials. Also, a Chinese businessman accused Mr. Adelson of reneging on an agreement to share profits from the Macao project.

Mr. Adelson also has a reputation for irascibility and has left a trail of angry former business associates. Even his two sons sued him at one point, accusing him of cheating them, though they lost. He filed a libel suit against a Las Vegas newspaper columnist, John L. Smith, who eventually had to declare bankruptcy, and he waged a bitter court battle with a former employee whom he accused of spreading lies about him.

Nevertheless, his concern for his image was apparent in a deposition he gave in a court case, which also hints at the risk for Mr. Gingrich in accepting so much financial help from Mr. Adelson.

Complaining that negative things said about him were winding up in news articles, Mr. Adelson said his charitable donations had “been rejected a couple of times” because of the bad publicity: “Nobody ever says in such an article: ‘Oh, he’s a very nice guy. He helps old ladies across the street. He pets dogs behind the ears. He’s a hugely charitable person. He gives away hundreds of millions of dollars.’ ”

Early Ambition

Mr. Adelson likes to recount how his first business breakthrough came when, at age 12, he bought a newsstand in downtown Boston, eventually parlaying his earnings into a brief teenage career operating candy machines.

After high school, he had stints working as a mortgage banker, running a business packaging toiletries for hotels and operating a charter travel company. But he hit the jackpot with a computer trade show, Comdex, which he started in Las Vegas in 1979. Comdex became the signature annual event for the computer industry, attracting more than 200,000 visitors at its peak.

Jason Chudnofsky, who knew Mr. Adelson growing up in Dorchester, Mass., and became chief executive at Comdex, said his friend always had outsize ambition. He recalled Mr. Adelson’s telling him decades ago that one day they would be “talking to ministers” and heads of state.

“He was thinking big even back then,” Mr. Chudnofsky said.

Big thinking led Mr. Adelson to set his sights on a project that would transform both the Las Vegas casino trade and his own life in ways that seem to have surprised everybody but him.

In 1988, Mr. Adelson and his partners bought the historic Sands Hotel and Casino and built a convention center to accommodate their thriving trade show. Eight years later, after they sold Comdex for $862 million, Mr. Adelson used his profits on a risky new venture: tearing down the aging Sands and spending $1.5 billion to develop a lavish hotel and casino modeled after Venice.

Accepted wisdom had it that building both a hotel-casino and a convention center was a money loser. Mr. Adelson proved otherwise. As his reputation as a successful developer grew, he explored opportunities for overseas expansion. But his attempts to build a casino in Israel met resistance despite his connections, according to court records.

“I went to see the chief rabbi,” Mr. Adelson testified in 2009 in a lawsuit he brought against a former employee. “There was no chance the religious bodies were going to allow a casino in Israel.”

He turned his attention to Asia. China in 1999 reclaimed the former Portuguese colony of Macao, and a few years later ended a casino monopoly that had existed for many years. Mr. Adelson’s company, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, bid for one of the licenses offered by the Chinese and won, leading to the opening of the $240 million Macao Sands in 2004.

The resort was so successful that its first-year profits exceeded the cost of the project, according to industry analysts. Mr. Adelson, who was also building a casino in Singapore, was riding high. But with so much money on the line, disputes arose with former associates looking for a share of the profits.

He was sued by a Hong Kong businessman, Richard Suen, who said he had been promised a “success fee” for introducing Mr. Adelson and his team to Chinese officials. A jury awarded Mr. Suen $44 million, but the award was overturned on appeal and the case sent back for a retrial, which is still pending.

In his suit, Mr. Suen asserted that while visiting Beijing in 2001, Mr. Adelson had been asked to use his influence in Congress to derail a human rights resolution that Chinese officials feared could complicate their bid to host the Olympic Games. Mr. Adelson acknowledged calling several congressmen, including Tom DeLay, who was the House majority whip at the time, but he and Mr. DeLay denied undermining the bill, which died in committee.

Still, a Sands executive testified that he had relayed a message to the Chinese taking credit for it.

The most damaging accusations have been made by a former Sands executive, Steve Jacobs, who sued after being fired in 2010. He alleges that he was pressed to exert “improper leverage” with Macao government officials to get approvals needed by the company, which Sands officials have denied. His assertions are now the subject of the federal investigation.

Passion for Israel

When Mr. Adelson appeared at the Birthright event in December and spoke approvingly of Mr. Gingrich, he had earned his place on the stage by virtue of his donations to the organization — more than $100 million in all.

He is also the single largest donor to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum, with gifts totaling $50 million. Mr. Adelson’s generosity to Jewish causes is especially striking given that for most of his life he was relatively uninvolved in that world.

Mr. Adelson’s business partners in his early days at Comdex were all much more active in Jewish affairs. But friends say Mr. Adelson experienced something of an awakening after his first visit to Israel in 1988, when he was in his mid-50s.

“He fell in love with the country,” said Ted Cutler, an early business partner.

This coincided with his divorce from his first wife, Sandra. Not long after his trip, he encountered a friend, Sara Aronson, at a Boston restaurant. Mr. Adelson talked excitedly of Israel and mentioned that he was interested in meeting Israeli women, Ms. Aronson recalled.

Ms. Aronson introduced him to her best friend, Dr. Miriam Ochshorn, a divorced physician from Israel in her 40s who was completing a fellowship in addiction medicine at Rockefeller University in New York. As it turned out, Mr. Adelson’s two sons from his previous marriage both struggled with drugs. One would die in 2005.

After the couple married in 1991, Mr. Adelson’s visits to Israel became so frequent that he told friends he was contemplating settling there. His increasing wealth gave him the means to make a lasting imprint on causes important to him and his wife, including the establishment of drug treatment centers in the United States and Israel.

He also became one of the biggest donors to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, and joined its executive committee.

Friends point out that his staunch Zionist beliefs are consistent with his take-no-prisoners personality. They also said the views of his wife, who had lived through so much tumult in Israel, including the 1967 war, undoubtedly helped shape his.

Over time, Mr. Adelson made his conservative views felt not only within the committee, but also in Israel. He started a free daily newspaper in 2007, Israel Hayom, that is widely viewed as supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close friend who shares his hawkish outlook.

Ehud Olmert, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2009, got a taste of the newspaper’s treatment of politicians who fall short of Mr. Adelson’s expectations. He and Mr. Adelson had been friendly, he said, but grew distant after Mr. Olmert tried to negotiate a two-state solution with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

“Once, after I was already prime minister, he asked to come see me with his wife, Miri,” Mr. Olmert recalled in a telephone interview. “He already had his newspaper, and every day it attacked me viciously.

“Toward the end of our meeting, I asked him, ‘Aren’t you ashamed of what your paper is doing to the prime minister?’ ” Mr. Olmert said, referring to himself. “He said, ‘I

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don’t read Hebrew.’ And Miri said, ‘I do, and I must tell you that we are very aggressive against him.’ ”

Mr. Olmert added that he had heard from senior American officials that Mr. Adelson had advocated firing Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state and getting rid of Mr. Olmert because both were “betraying Israel.”

Shared Conservatism

As Mr. Adelson was experiencing his awakening on Israel, Mr. Gingrich was ascending the Republican ranks. He was also endearing himself to stalwart supporters of Israel.

In early 1995, newly elected as speaker of the House, Mr. Gingrich caused a stir when he called for moving the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He later backed legislation endorsing the move. It was at a reception celebrating the measure that Mr. Gingrich first met Mr. Adelson, according to an associate of Mr. Adelson.

From then on, Mr. Adelson was among a cadre of pro-Israel advocates with whom Mr. Gingrich had regular interactions. The casino magnate also frequently lent his Gulfstream jet to Mr. Gingrich for cross-country trips, a former Gingrich adviser recalled.

Beyond Israel, the two men shared a conservative philosophy on matters important to Mr. Adelson’s businesses, including limiting the ability of labor unions to deduct money from members’ paychecks for political activities.

Mr. Gingrich also backed legislation sought by casino owners in 1998 to preserve tax deductions beneficial to the industry. That same year, Mr. Adelson hosted a Republican fund-raiser at one of his Las Vegas venues, headlined by Mr. Gingrich, and donated $300,000 to the party for the midterm elections.

Getting Involved

In 2006, when Mr. Gingrich began laying the groundwork for a possible run for the presidency, Mr. Adelson provided $1 million in seed money for his political committee, American Solutions for Winning the Future. Mr. Adelson donated an additional $2 million the next year; his contributions to the group have totaled more than $7 million.

During the 2008 election cycle, Mr. Adelson became recognized as a top-tier donor to the right and a moneyed villain to the left. He was the primary financier of a conservative nonprofit group, Freedom’s Watch, which trumpeted plans to spend as much as $200 million on the presidential election. Those plans, however, fizzled as internal problems paralyzed the organization, with Mr. Adelson micromanaging the group’s efforts, Republican operatives familiar with the organization said at the time. The group still spent about $30 million through early 2008, almost all of which came from Mr. Adelson, according to the operatives.

Today, the Venetian and the adjoining Sands Convention Center have become default destinations for Republican events in Las Vegas.

“I call it the Republican headquarters on the Strip,” said Jon Ralston, the political columnist for The Las Vegas Sun.

The Venetian will also be the official headquarters hotel for Saturday’s Nevada presidential caucuses. And in deference to observant Jews, the Clark County Republican Committee has scheduled a special caucus on Saturday night at the Adelson Educational Campus, a Jewish school financed by the Adelsons, six hours after the rest of the state is done caucusing.

When it came time to picking sides for this year’s Republican presidential nomination, Mr. Adelson made clear to friends early on that if Mr. Gingrich decided to run, he would back him. When Mr. Gingrich’s campaign faltered, friends who supported other candidates put pressure on Mr. Adelson to stay out of the race.

Nevertheless, Mr. Adelson made an initial $5 million contribution to Winning Our Future, a pro-Gingrich super PAC, before the South Carolina primary, which proved pivotal in Mr. Gingrich’s victory there.

Fred Zeidman, a Texas energy executive active in Jewish and Republican circles, said he talked to Mr. Adelson early last week, before it became public that Mrs. Adelson, 66, had also donated $5 million to the super PAC. Mr. Adelson told his friend that he was going to give more money and seemed to signal that he was willing to keep it flowing.

“I think what he’s trying to say is, ‘Newt ain’t going away, and I’m going to make sure of it,’ ” Mr. Zeidman said.

Reporting was contributed by Adam Nagourney from Las Vegas, Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner from Israel, and Keith Bradsher from Hong Kong.

Why Isn’t Adelson’s Questionable Character – And Associations- Part of the National Debate?

GAMBLING
Sands CEO backs Gingrich and a Miami casino

Sheldon Adelson is Newt Gingrich’s biggest political backer, and also is pushing Miami to endorse his plan for a downtown casino. He’s gotten lots of press in Florida for one of those causes.

BY DOUGLAS HANKS
What does Newt Gingrich have in common with a proposed downtown Miami casino?

Both are being backed by the same man: Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson and his wife’s $10 million injection into a political committee slamming Gingrich rival Mitt Romney have emerged as a major subplot in Florida’s GOP primary, thanks to the flurry of television ads funded by their money. Less noticed is Adelson’s direct tie to the biggest controversy facing the Sunshine State’s tourism industry at the moment.

Sands is helping lead the fight to expand Florida’s gambling laws to allow casino resorts in Miami and elsewhere across the state. Adelson hosted local leaders in an office suite overlooking a potential Sands Miami site on the land known as the Miami World Center, a cluster of parking lots and night clubs a short walk from the AmericanAirlines Arena.

“He likes to talk, mostly about him and the things he’s done… He never mentioned any political allegiances,’’ Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said of Adelson. The two of them met in an office suite in downtown’s Everglades residential tower late last year, near where Sands hopes to build a roughly 1,500-room hotel and a convention center twice the size of the one in Miami Beach.

“He didn’t promise anything,’’ Regalado continued. “He just said, ‘I’m here to tell you who I am.”

Though Sands executives have spent years lobbying for a Miami casino, their efforts were overshadowed in recent months by the big media splash made by Genting. The Malaysian-based casino giant bought The Miami Herald’s headquarters in May and launched a full-on campaign to convince Florida to build what was described at the time as the world’s largest casino.

Privately, Sands has been lobbying just as aggressively, with Adelson’s persona looming large in the pitch. Andy Abboud, the head of Sands’ lobbying operation, refers to “my boss” frequently in describing why the Sands approach to business would work in Miami.

Sands touts its plan to lure conventions and trade shows to Miami, citing Adelson’s legenday success in that business. Adelson’s support of the bombastic former Speaker of the House has brought new attention to a billionaire known for blunt remarks and staunch support of Israel.

“I don’t take comments from anybody unless you’re rich,’’ a chuckling Adelson said in a Jan 2011 CNBC interview thatwas quoted in a recent profile of the Sands CEO. “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?”

The Gingrich campaign did not respond to an interview request for this story, and a Sands spokesman said the company wouldn’t comment. Genting also declined an interview request.

The son of a cab driver, Adelson made his fortune organizing trade shows. He bought a Vegas convention center in 1989 to house his popular Comdex computer show, which once was held at the Miami Beach Convention Center before it became so large. Adelson sold Comdex for $860 million in 1995, then spent $1.5 billion building the Venetian hotel in Vegas. The Palazzo came next, followed by four Asian casino resorts now churning about $4 million in profits every day.

Forbes this year listed the 78-year-old as the eighth richest American, with a personal fortune worth about $22 billion.

Adelson first allied with Gingrich over a pro-Israel bill the then-Congressional leader was backing. The political allegiance continued, and Adelson’s fortune has played a central role in the former speaker’s rise in the GOP primary. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, each donated $5 million to Winning Our Future. That’s a so-called “super” political action committee, an organization independent from any campaign but formed to win Gingrich the nomination.

“This is all about Israel, and has nothing to do with gambling,’’ Barry University political science professor Sean Foreman said of Adelson’s support of Gingrich.

At a campaign stop this week in Cocoa, Gingrich said he has Adelson’s support thanks to the former speaker’s muscular approach to protecting Israel in the Middle East. Adelson “believes that the Iranians represent a mortal threat to Israel and to the United States,’’ he said. “And he is deeply motivated by the question of having a commander in chief strong

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enough and willing to make sure that the Iranians do not get nuclear weapons.”

Casino critic Norman Bramam famously seized on the Islamic leaders of Genting’s home country of Malaysia to try and tie Genting to anti-semitism. But the Sands connnection to the controversial GOP leader has gone mostly unnoticed in Miami’s gambling debate.

“I watched the news about Adelson giving all the money, but I didn’t connect it to the hotels he owns,’’ said Nancy Liebman, a former Miami Beach commissioner helping organize opposition to pro-casino bills in Tallahassee.

Adelson’s dual role in the Republican primary fight and Miami’s casino debate haven’t seemed to overlap. Mayor Regalado, a Republican, has supported the idea of casino resorts downtown but said he would have endorsed John Huntsman if the former Utah governor had stayed in the race. Adelson apparently hasn’t put any pressure on Regalado to give his friend Gingrich a boost in South Florida.

“I haven’t endorsed anybody,’’ Regalado said Friday. “But nobody has asked.”

McClatchy Washington correspondent Lesley Clark contributed to this report.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/27/v-fullstory/2612070/sands-ceo-backs-gingrich-and-a.html#storylink=cpy

Casinos Good for Business? Will they Cannibalize Local Businesses? Key Debate.

CASINO RESORTS
Would casino mega resort hurt existing Miami restaurants and shops? Opinion is split

Retailers and restaurateurs are split on the potential impact casino resorts would have on S. Florida, with some seeing them as a boon and others fearing they spell doom.

BY ELAINE WALKER
EWALKER@MIAMIHERALD.COM
Joe’s Stone Crab owner Steve Sawitz distinctly recalls his grandfather’s admonitions decades ago against bring casino gambling to Miami. The move could be the “downfall” of independent business, his grandfather cautioned.

That warning resonates with Sawitz today as legislation to allow resort casinos is debated in the Florida Legislature and casino companies jockey for position in the market. Although he acknowledges Joe’s could benefit from casino traffic because of the nearly 100-year-old landmark’s reputation, Sawitz fears that a mega resort with dozens of restaurants and a shopping mall would put many of his neighbors out of business.

“There is not one good reason for them to want you to go outside of that casino,” said Sawitz, the fourth generation of his family to run the Miami Beach restaurant, which also has a location at the Forum Shops in Las Vegas — a far different market, he said. “It’s hard to compete with comped meals and drinks. You’ve got to show me a place where restaurants and retailers outside of the casino do well. I’m not risking my sweat equity of 100 years in their promises.”

The debate over whether Genting’s Resorts World Miami or a destination resort project by Las Vegas Sands would be good business for existing retailers and restaurants has divided the Miami community. Some see it as the death knell for small mom-and-pops, while others envision a windfall of new customers and revenues.

The issue has come to a head since Genting purchased The Miami Herald and surrounding property for nearly a half billion dollars last year, then unveiled plans for the massive, $3.8 billion Resorts World Miami. Under the terms of the agreement, The Miami Herald can remain in its current quarters rent-free through May 2013.

Genting has tried to gain support by touting projections of two to three million new visitors annually and the addition of about 45,000 direct and indirect jobs. For local restaurants and bars, Genting offers the chance to participate in a WorldCard rewards program that would encourage casino guests to visit local businesses.

“Miami has so many unique cultural attractions and we want to promote them,” said Jessica Hoppe, senior vice president of governmental affairs for Resorts World Miami. “We want our customers to go and experience South Beach because we want Miami to thrive and grow. We fully believe that a rising tide lifts all ships.”

That pitch has already drawn interest from more than 50 Miami-Dade restaurants and bars, including Tony Chan’s Water Club, City Hall the Restaurant, Truluck’s Seafood, The Daily and Wall nightclub. Others like The Forge and Garcia’s Seafood Grill are interested not only in the loyalty program, but also in opening an outpost at Resorts World Miami.

“It really does go to show that these folks are serious about sharing the wealth,” said Shareef Malnik, whose family has owned The Forge on Miami Beach for 45 years. He has a handshake deal to bring an outpost of The Forge to Resorts World Miami. “Genting will be a magnet. If it makes our city better, I will get my fair share of increased business over the long run.”

Luis Garcia, whose family owns Garcia’s Seafood Grill and Garcia’s Wholesale, hopes he can convince Genting to create a fisherman’s wharf on the project. But even without that, he thinks tourists will leave Resorts World Miami to visit his restaurant on the Miami River.

“People are going to come to my business because they want an authentic Miami place,” said Garcia, whose family has been in the restaurant business for 25 years. “I like competition. It’s one of the greatest things we have in this country.”

But studies on the potential impact of casinos tell a different story.

A 1996 study on the Regional Economic Impacts of Casino Gambling found the long-term economic impacts of casinos are “generally positive” and result in an increase in real disposable income and jobs. Yet the study also found the only place the effect might be negative is a region with a thriving tourism economy — such as South Florida.

Adam Rose, the study’s author, visited Miami recently and said that because of the strong tourism base, gambling could hurt local businesses. “The key question: Is the casino going to attract people who wouldn’t otherwise go to Miami? said Rose, now an economist at the University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy. “If it doesn’t, you’ve got cannibalization.”

Rose’s study suggested that local restaurants and other service providers do not share “as broadly” in the direct gains from a casino opening.

Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn said as much to a business group in Bridgeport, Conn. in the 1990s. “There is no reason on earth for any of you to expect for more than a second that just because there are people here, they’re going to run into your restaurants and stores just because we build this building [casino] here.”

And Robert Goodman’s book, The Luck Business, claims that four years after the introduction of casinos in Atlantic City in 1978, about a third of the city’s retail business closed. During a 10-year period, the number of independent restaurants in the city declined by 40 percent.

A 2005 study on the impact of casino gambling on retail sales growth in mid-size Iowa cities found that between 1996 and 2004, the average annual growth rate of retail sales was .6 percent in four cities with a casino, compared to 3.4 percent in six cities without a casino.

Iowa and Atlantic City are far different from Miami. And it’s also hard to compare South Florida to Las Vegas, where casinos built a modern-day Land of Oz in the desert.

But the potential impact of casinos worries small businesspeople like Alfred Patino, whose wine bar and restaurant Bin.18 would be just down the street from Resorts World Miami.

“We already have a huge amount of competition,” Patino said. “We don’t need 50 more restaurants and bars. I’d rather let the area continue to grow organically.”

Casino or not, there is a valid concern about just how much retail and restaurants the Downtown Miami area can support. While the area has long been considered an underserved market, in typical Miami fashion it’s about to go from bust to boom.

Recent years have brought a flurry of new activity along Brickell Avenue, Midtown Miami, the Design District and Biscayne Boulevard. Swire Properties is seeking construction permits for Brickell CitiCentre, a 4.6 million-square-foot mixed-use project with shopping, a hotel, offices and residential towers. Developer Craig Robins plans to bring Louis Vuitton and Hermes to the Design District as he grows a collection of luxury fashion brands in the area.

Opinion is split on where to put up the stop sign.

Robins thinks any casino in the Downtown area would have a negative impact on his plans and others.

“It’s bad for Miami and I think it’s going to be bad for business,” Robins said. “These projects would be in a position to artificially compete with other businesses and put them at an extremely competitive disadvantage. It could fundamentally damage the character and spirit of the great projects that are already happening in Miami.”

But management for Bayside Marketplace and Mary Brickell Village both say they would welcome a casino and the visitors it would bring.

“Our feeling is that any economic development would be good,” said Pam Weller, general manager at Bayside.

Kerry Newman, a broker with Koniver Stern that handles the leasing for Mary Brickell Village, said ultimately the retailers will decide if the demand is there. “The retailers won’t come in unless they feel they can do the business,” he said.

Fueling concerns over Resorts World Miami is a proposal for what Genting says would be one of the largest casinos in the United States. Plans unveiled last year featured a dramatic design inspired by a coral reef with four hotels and 5,200 hotel rooms, a 3.6 acre outdoor lagoon, more than 50 restaurants and bars, a luxury shopping galleria with about 60 shops and a rotating vendor marketplace. The restaurants and retail together represent nearly one million square feet.

The restaurants alone number about double those at major Las Vegas hotels. Caesar’s Palace leads the list with 26 restaurants and bars, not including those at the attached Forum Shops, and MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay, are close behind at 24.

The project would be akin to “an atomic bomb,’’ said David Wallack, the owner of Mango’s Cafe on Miami Beach and Power Studios in the Design District. “It needs to be on the proper scale so that it doesn’t annihilate everything in the area.”

Genting executives say the size of Resorts World Miami — particularly the retail and restaurant space — will be reduced as the company adjusts its plans based on feedback from the community.

“The design is in a bit of a state of flux,” Hoppe said. “Our desire is not to engulf everything that exists in Miami.”

Representatives of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which also wants to build a Miami casino, said its resort would be more modest in size.

“We’re not going to go head to head with local established restaurateurs,” said Andy Abboud, Sands’ vice president of government relations. “We’ve got to bring new stuff to the marketplace.”

Although Sands has not settled on a Miami location — it favors the Miami World Center site — the company envisions a hotel with no more than 2,000 rooms and about a dozen restaurants. The project would also include one million square feet of convention space and a 500,000 square foot retail shopping mall.

Genting argues that what distinguishes it from Sands or any other Vegas operator is an “open access” program, which encourages guests to leave the hotel. Genting’s WorldCard program allows guests to take the rewards points rung up at Resorts World Miami and “spend’’ them at off-site partner establishments. In most other casino loyalty programs, points can only be used for discounted or free offers within the hotel.

Consumers can ring up loyalty points on the Genting card while dining or drinking at member establishments. There’s no charge to merchants or consumers to participate. Genting doesn’t take a percentage of sales. But the merchant has to float the bill for 30 days before it receives payment from Genting and may lose the cost of a processing fee on the transaction reimbursement.

Steve Haas, the owner of City Hall the Restaurant just up Biscayne Boulevard thinks he will benefit from additional tourist traffic and still maintain his local consumer, which is the core of his business.

“I don’t think locals will actually go there on a regular basis,” Haas said. “I think most of the neighborhood will end up avoiding the hotel. We will go there once in awhile, when people come to visit.”

Is the Herald Building Historic? A center for a better downtown development that is not a Destination Casino? Should We Consider it And Work together to design a better space?

The Miami Herald building’s window grids for hurricane protection. PETER ANDREW BOSCH / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Fullsize Buy Photoprevious | nextImage 1 of 15
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
FSANTIAGO@MIAMIHERALD.COM
These walls around me can talk and they have a heck of a story to tell — our history, Miami’s history.

When it comes to making the case for the historic preservation of The Miami Herald building, it doesn’t matter whether you like or hate the newspaper, or whether you like or dislike the look of the Miami Modern architecture of the building.

It also shouldn’t matter whether you’re in favor of or against the plan of the Malaysian company, Genting, to turn the 13.9-acre property into a mega-casino gambling resort. As revolting as that possibility strikes me on so many levels, it hits especially hard because of the watchdog role the newspaper has played in the city’s history.

But what makes a building worthy of historic preservation is decided by a set of established criteria, not opinions, and The Herald building meets every requirement set forth by the Miami City Charter, says Becky Roper Matkov, chief executive of the Dade Heritage Trust and the preservationist leading the charge to gain historic designation for the waterfront Herald building.

“The Herald has been an incredibly historic force in this community for decades, and this building has been a huge influence in the community,” Roper Matkov says.

The fact that The Miami Herald’s parent company, McClatchy, sold the building to Genting for $236 million last year should not be a factor in determining historic designation, Matkov says.

The building is an iconic example of mid-century Miami Modern architecture, MiMo for short, as is the Bacardi Building on Biscayne Boulevard and the Miami Marine Stadium in Virginia Key, two structures that have already been granted historic designation and protection.

Ground was broken on Aug. 19, 1960, for the $30 million Miami Herald plant. At the time it was completed in 1963, it was the largest building in Florida.

Open house on April 7, 1963, brought 10,000 people to “gape in wonder at the expensive equipment and the immense space occupied by various departments in a splendid modern setting,” retired Herald writer Nixon Smiley wrote in his 1974 book Knights of the Fourth Estate: The Story of The Miami Herald.

The Herald’s six-story building stands in an arts district where other nearby structures such as the Sears Towers and The Boulevard Shops have already received historic designation, and thus are protected from being torn down.

Yet, at least on the surface, when it comes to the fate of the unmistakable yellow-colored building flanking the bayfront between the Venetian and MacArthur causeways, sometimes it seems that few Miamians care.

In a recent survey of Miami-Dade voters commissioned by The Herald and its media partners, 52 percent of those polled opposed historic designation for the Herald building. Another 13 percent had no opinion.

Granted, the topic of architectural details is not a sexy or life-or-death issue. But surprisingly, when The Herald’s management announced plans this week to relocate in May 2013 to the former Southern Command headquarters in Doral, that became one of the day’s best-read and most-shared stories on social media sites.

Like it or hate it, Miamians do care what happens to their newspaper of record, but in a city as young as ours, there’s little understanding about the value of historic preservation.

People with bigger priorities don’t understand why preservation of iconic old buildings is important and how the protection a historic designation confers on a building that tells a story about our history contributes to the future.

But Miami, incorporated in 1896 and one of the youngest cities in the United States, is at a crossroads. Issues such as this will shape the fortunes of future generations who will care or not care about this city, depending on the values we pass on.

If we don’t leave our children and grandchildren our history represented in buildings that tell our story — the Freedom Tower, the Lyric Theater, the Fontainebleau Hotel, The Miami Herald — what kind of citizens will they become?

Like grandparents, old buildings are repositories of lessons, identity and stories that reveal who we are and how we got to be here.

“If you think of all the places that make Miami interesting to visit, all of them required someone to stand up and say, ‘This is worth preserving or restoring,’ and almost everyone else thought it was a nutty idea at the time,” Roper Matkov says. “It just takes a little vision to see how important something from the past can be and how it can be translated into an important landmark for the future.”

The political and economic environment, however, may not be favorable to the historic designation. Necessary documents to supplement the case, such as the building’s original plans, Roper Matkov says, are “missing” or hard to come by. Genting is against the historic designation and is not cooperating with the sharing of deed documents that are now in their possession as the building’s new owners.

But predictable shenanigans like that shouldn’t be a factor. The city charter outlines the criteria for historic designation, which The Herald building clearly meets:

The building is “associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the past.” The company’s late founders, brothers John S. and James L. Knight, were key players in Miami’s development and in hemispheric affairs, and perhaps more importantly, continue to contribute posthumously through a foundation in their name that every year funds multimillion dollar community projects in the fields of the arts, education and journalism.

Likewise, Alvah H. Chapman Jr., the former president and CEO of The Herald and chairman of the previous parent company, Knight Ridder, was a key player in community affairs, and his influence is well-documented. He was the strongest voice of all, ironically, against casino gambling in Florida.

Without question, The Herald has been the “site of a historic event with significant effect upon the community, city, state or nation,” from dignitaries worldwide coming to discuss international issues with the editorial board to the tragic suicide of Miami-Dade Commissioner Arthur E. Teele Jr., who shot himself to death in the newspaper’s lobby in 2005.

The newspaper’s work in defining issues like immigration, racial relations, and growth during the last 50 years fulfills the charter’s requirement that the building under consideration represent “the historical, cultural, political, economical, or social trends of the community.”

Whether one likes the style or not, it’s “an outstanding work of a prominent designer or builder,” architect Sigurd Naess, who designed the Sun-Times building in Chicago, and the structure contains “elements of design, detail, materials, craftsmanship of outstanding quality or which represent a significant innovation or adaptation to the South Florida environment [like the unique cascade of shutters for hurricanes]; or have yielded, or maybe likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.” Those are the requirements for historic designation, which The Herald building, with its stately lobby of steel and marble, meets. It isn’t a judgment that comes from a sentiment of nostalgia for the past, but from documented history and architectural facts.

I am not without bias. On the front lines for the last 32 years, I’ve been part of the reporting and writing of stories that become the first draft of history, the extraordinary and the tragic, and the ordinary daily events that make up a community’s fabric. And as many other Miamians, I’ve witnessed the newspaper’s influence on South Florida, mostly for good, sometimes for worse, but that’s history, imperfect and educational.

These walls around me can talk and they have a heck of a story to tell — our history, Miami’s history.

Save them.

Sun Post Interview with Bob Graham- Check Last Paragraph – Thanks Frank

The Eco-Warrior
January 26, 2012 | SunPost
Former Senator Bob Graham on the Environment, Casinos, and Military Stratergy

Bob Graham Admonishes Tallahassee: No More Harm

Florida’s 38th governor (1979-87) isn’t pleased with what the Legislature did during last year’s session. He’s not optimistic about this year’s. But it won’t stop him from going to bat for what he regards as the state’s fundamental economic asset – and a key to Florida’s economic recovery.

From the corridors of the statehouse in Tallahassee to the halls of Congress, Bob Graham’s decades of public service were crowned by eight years as governor and three terms in the U.S. Senate. There, he served on the environment and finance committees and, during and after 9/11, chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Following his retirement from D.C. politics in 2005, he taught for a year at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. And while he may have retired from politics, he has by no means retired. Graham’s most recent decade has been spent educating college students in the importance of civics; founding a University of Florida center for public service that bears his name; chairing a commission on the prevention of WMD proliferation and terrorism; serving on an inquiry commission into the causes of the financial crisis; co-chairing a national commission on the BP oil spill and offshore drilling; and writing, which includes his most recent book, Keys to the Kingdom (Vanguard Press), a “novel of suspense,” that was five years in the making.

As if all that was enough, he has also found time to start an environmental organization, the Florida Conservation Coalition, that has brought together under a common umbrella groups including the Audubon Society of Florida, The Nature Conservancy, and the Everglades Foundation to muster opposition to the Florida Legislature and Gov. Scott, both of whom Graham indicts as having “set Florida’s once proud conservation laws and programs back four decades.”

Just before embarking on a weeks-long, Cape Town-to-Singapore sea cruise with his wife, Adele, a cruise aboard which he will be lecturing, Graham sat down in his Miami Lakes office with the SunPost’s Charles Branham-Bailey to opine about resort casinos, Tallahassee’s assault on the environment, and what should the nation’s military strategy look like in a time of economic belt-tightening –

THE ASSAULT ON VOTING RIGHTS

I am active in a group

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called the Florida Joint Center on Citizenship, in conjunction with the National Commission on Citizenship. Each year we publish a Civic Health Index for Florida. This year we’re particularly focusing on “millennials,” people between 18 and 29. These very people who are going to be so important to the future civic welfare of Florida are some of the people who will be the most adversely affected by these [changes to voting laws by last year’s Florida Legislature].

PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

I don’t really understand – well, I guess I do – the political strategy of the Republican candidates this winter. I know that the Republican electorate is so hard right that in order to get the nomination you’ve got to appeal to them. But in so doing, you’ve got to get 50%-plus-one of all the folks to get elected. In politics, the way I’ve always thought you wanted to do it is you find out where your opponent is.

Let’s use a football analogy and say your opponent is on the 35 yard line. You want to be anywhere from that 35 yard line all the way over to your end zone, so he’s got 35 yards, you’ve got 65 yards – you win. They seem to be wanting to get back inside the 20 yard line and [say to] 80% of the electorate: to hell with them. It may make [the GOP candidates] feel good in January but it doesn’t seem to be like a very winning strategy for November.

NATIONAL DEFENSE

SP: The president made his [Jan. 5] announcement from the Pentagon about the Defense Strategic Review and the need to resize our military and restructure our defense budgets. He said, “We have to renew our economic strength here at home, which is the foundation of our strength around the world. And that includes putting our fiscal house in order.” What are your views on the importance that he’s stressing of trying to balance defense spending with the need to shore up the homefront here when we have so many urgent economic needs?

We fought two wars in the last decade continuing into this one, neither of which was paid for. They were totally financed by debt. That was a real break from American tradition.

We fought probably the most expensive war in the history of the country, on a per capita, GDP basis – the Civil War. The Union came out of the Civil War with virtually no debt because they had paid for it.

World War II was a very expensive war and we came out with a little debt which was quickly disposed of after the war was over.

So this is a radical departure, what we’ve done, from what has been our history. I am reassured that my negative votes on doing those [wars], particularly Iraq, were right decisions.

Yes, I think there is a direct relationship between the economic health of the country and how much of our treasury we want to spend on the military. I think we’re in some ways doing what they say the generals always do, which is to fight the last war. To me, the war in Afghanistan – which was a perfectly understandable and appropriate war, in my judgment, since it was like Pearl Harbor; we’d just been attacked and we were retaliating for that attack – is no longer against al Qaeda.

There are almost no al Qaeda – less than 100 in the whole country of Afghanistan. What we ought to be doing in my judgment is moving away from an Afghanistan-centric policy towards more of the kinds of things that we are currently doing in Yemen and in Pakistan, which is [to deploy] small numbers of people, high-tech, specific targets…

SP: The use of drone technology and less dependence on “boots on the ground?”

Yeah, you phrased it very well.

SP: And of course President [George W.] Bush never quite asked us to make sacrifices, unlike previous commanders-in-chief.

Oh, yes he did. He said we should go to shopping malls and spend money.

SP: Okay [chuckling], I stand corrected.

[sarcastically] How much more sacrificial can you be?

THE THREAT FROM AL QAEDA

SP: The president also said, “We’ve decimated al Qaeda’s leadership. We’ve delivered justice to bin Laden, and we’ve put that terrorist network on the path to defeat.” You said [in an interview] last summer that you wanted to wait about six months [after bin Laden’s death] to see if we could make the assessment that bin Laden and the al Qaeda network was not as much of a threat as in the past.

If you had asked me that question a year ago today, I would have answered that in fact we were less safe today than we were and part of that reason would be that we have so bled our economic strength. Another part of it would be that our adversaries have not been standing on the sidelines just waiting for us to get better, they’ve been getting better, particularly al Qaeda which, at 9/11, was a very hierarchical organization, with bin Laden making most of the important decisions.

Today, al Qaeda is a franchise with 60 or more units around the world, each one of which has its own leadership structure. That diversity not only gives them a better local knowledge to carry out operations but it also gives them people in leadership positions who don’t have to go back to “Big al Qaeda” in a cave somewhere to get instructions [for terrorist plots] they are capable of conducting themselves. The best example of this is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which, in the last couple of years, has probably been a greater threat to the United States than bin Laden’s al Qaeda.

I said it may be that the death of bin Laden might begin to change that “are we stronger or not” equation but I don’t think you could answer it in the summer of 2011. [We] might be in the position of having a better answer towards the summer of 2012.

FLORIDA

SP: Let me skip now to state politics. Gov. Scott gave his State of the State address the other day. Nowhere in this transcript does he say the word or mention the topic of the environment. He talks a lot about jobs and about education. He wants the Legislature to approve an additional $1 billion for education.

Last year they cut it by $1.3 billion – so we’re behind where we were a year ago.

SP: [Senate minority leader] Nan Rich said in [the Democratic] rebuttal – she was quite damning in her remarks – that “the billion dollars he’s proposing for education doesn’t begin to cover the $1.35 billion the Republicans cut from our schoolchildren last year.”

GRAHAM: My two major state issues are education and environment. Right now I’m involved with a group I helped organize, the Florida Conservation Coalition. Our principal objective in 2012 is, No more harm.

The same Legislature which did so much damage in 2011 is still there. Although I would hope that they might be willing to reconsider and roll back some of the bad judgments they made, I am not optimistic. So we have a rather limited and defensive agenda: Avoid more harm.

One hopes the Legislature that is voted in in November will be more understanding of our fundamental economic asset in Florida. We don’t have coal. We don’t have cheap electricity. We don’t have iron ore. We don’t have any of the things that the Industrial Revolution depended upon and, thus, we’ve never really been a part of the Industrial Revolution.

What we do have is a magnificent place to live which I think could become attractive to new industry which is not a steel-and-concrete [one] but is human creativity and high-tech industry of the mind – that’s what we need to be doing.

SP: In your message of December 24 that was posted on the Conservation Coalition’s web page, you emphasize it is essential to try to reverse last year’s acts against the environment and the protection thereof. You wrote: “In three short months of 2011, the governor and Legislature set Florida’s once proud conservation laws and programs back four decades. [They] placed our state’s natural heritage in jeopardy. What choices do we have? We surrender, or we fight back.”

You also had a recent conversation with [former governor] Jeb Bush and you both agreed that dismantling the water management districts was bad for the office of governor because the governor effectively has control over those districts.

The South Florida Water Management district, which is the largest of the five, was established in the late ’40s. We had a very serious siege of hurricanes in that period and that led to the creation of what initially was called the South Florida Drainage Commission, and that subsequently became the South Florida Water Management District.

At the same time there were four other districts. The whole state is covered by one of these five districts, each of which is based on a water basin. There’s the St. John’s [River] water basin, the Suwannee [River] water basin, etc. Basically, South Florida’s is the Everglades water basin.

What the Legislature did last year was, first, they transferred a significant amount of the budgetary authority for the districts to themselves. Now, for the first time in Florida history, the Legislature is going to be engaged in determining financial priorities for the district. I think that’s going to make it very political and parochial.

Second, they mandated that there be very significant cuts in the ad valorem funding of the water management districts. In the case of the one here, it was in the nature of a 40%-plus cut which resulted in hundreds of very talented people being pink-slipped.

Now there appears to be a movement towards privatization of water in Florida. As in most of the eastern United States, water is a public resource. You, me, the other 18 or 19 million Floridians own this water. What the movement is, I’m afraid, [is toward] converting it to a western [U.S.]-type commodity where [companies] own the water. This was attempted ten years ago by, of all people, Enron, which wanted to get a law to privatize the water in Florida and then they would exercise some control over it.

Thank god we avoided that disaster, but those same people who were touting that a decade ago are still alive, well, and kicking and influencing [legislatures] with that objective.

Those are some of the things that have happened to the water management districts and we fear might be the platform from which more bad stuff will happen.

CASINO GAMBLING

My point is, Florida essentially declined the invitation to join the Industrial Revolution. We have an economy today that’s not much different than it was at the end of the 19th Century: tourism, agriculture, and services.

We tried for the last 50 or more years to put a fourth leg under that stool. That was high-tech industry, and we made some progress, I point out. People sometimes forget the fact – you know where the first mass-produced PC was manufactured in the United States?

SP: Are you going to tell me here in Florida?

Yes. IBM, at its facility in Boca Raton, was where the first one of these [was manufactured for the consumer market]. That factory has long since closed. My theory is that we had the right objective. We haven’t pursued it with enough consistency and we haven’t done the things that are going to be necessary to attract these companies. The principal thing, I would say, is education.

Casino gambling is culturally in conflict with the values of industries of the mind. You see no significant industries of that nature in Biloxi, Atlantic City, or Las Vegas [where legalized gambling exists].

We’re making a fundamental choice as to where we think the future of Florida should be. Should we deepen our commitment to tourism by adding this additional component of resort casinos? Or should we continue our effort to try to get the culture of high-tech?

Las Vegas Sands Questions Fresen Casino Bill -Scrambling for Advantage on Ways to Gouge the Public Till

TAMPA BAY TIMES JANUARY 23, 2012

Promoter of casino bill getting uneasy about proposed changes

The effort to find a politically palatable compromise that will get a destination resort casino bill through the House may have found its first casualty:

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Las Vegas Sands.

The Las Vegas casino giant, which was the first to bring the concept of a “destination resort” casino and convention center to Florida two years ago, says it would have a hard time supporting the bill if the amendments by sponsor Rep. Erik Fresen , R-Miami, get on the bill.

“My client, the Las Vegas Sands, has some concerns about the amendments that would make [the bill] less appealing,” said Nick Iarossi, lobbyist for Sands.

Iarossi told the Herald/Times that specifically the idea of using tax revenues generated by the casino industry to buy back pari-mutuel permits for low performing horse and dog track and jai alai frontons is “causing some discomfort.”

“The state has the ability to spend the money as it sees fit,” Iarossi said, but using the revenues generated by the casinos to pay pari-mutuels “raises some policy flags for my client.”

Meanwhile, Sands stands by its argument that three mega casinos in South Florida, as proposed in both Fresen’s bill and the Senate companion bill, “are too many,” he said. “We probably wouldn’t build if there are three in South Florida.”

Sands was the first to pitch the notion of a convention-based mega resort in Florida that would include a resort casino as part of it footprint but it was only when the Genting Group, the Maylasian-based casino and resort company, invested nearly $500 million in real estate purchases in Miami that the bills started moving.

“For over two years we’ve pitched the benefits of a destination resort and the jobs it creates. Now it’s up to the Legislature to authorize that concept or not,” Iarossi said.

The Senate version of the bill by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The House is expected to hear Fresen’s bill, and his proposed amendments to it, at the Business and Consumer Affairs Committee next week.

Among the opponents to the destination resort legislation have been several Central Florida lawmakers on the House committee who have said they will support the measure only if it bring a net reducton in gambling. Under Fresen’s proposal, parimutuels could petition to have their permits bought back by the state. That could include the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, and the Orlando Jai Alai in Seminole County, which closed in 2009.

Sands wants to see the bill continue to make progress, Iarossi said, and “certainly won’t oppose it,” if the changes are enacted because they believe “this bill is going to change a lot if it is going to pass.”

Unused Stadia as Homes for the Homeless? Gee Apparently its state law. Who knew?

Old Florida Law Says Sun Life Stadium, American Airlines Arena Should Be Homeless Shelters
By Kyle Munzenrieder Mon., Jan. 23 2012 at 2:56 PM Comments (1)

​Twenty years ago, the state government passed a law that sounded good on a very simple, surface level: all sports facilities that receive public funding must be used as homeless shelters when not in use. Of course, since the law went into effect not a single arena or stadium in the state has been used as a homeless shelter. Now, two Republican lawmakers have filed a bill that would require stadiums and arenas to return state money for not complying with the obscure law.

“These organizations have failed to follow the law for over 20 years,” said Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami), in a statement. “This is the simply the State of Florida holding them accountable.”

Artiles is sponsoring the bill in the House, while Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) has introduced the bill in the Senate.

Sun Life Stadium, home to the Miami Dolphins and, until recently, the Florida Marlins, has received more than $37 million from the State since 1994, more than any other facility. Almost $31 million has been given to Broward’s Bank Atlantic Center, home of the Florida Panthers, since construction begin in 1996. American Airlines Arena has collected $27.5 million since 1998.

“We have spent over $300 million supporting teams that can afford to pay a guy $7, 8, 10 million a year to throw a baseball 90 feet. I think they can pay for their own stadium,” Bennett tells The Miami Herald. “I can not believe that we’re going to cut money out of Medicaid and take it away from the homeless and take it away from the poor and impoverished, and we’re continuing to support people who are billionaires.”

For a moment of pure hypocritical bliss, just take the last part of Bennett’s quote out of context and imagine he was saying it while talking about other Republican pet peeves, like say the Bush tax cuts and Rick Scott’s plan to eliminate corporate income tax or something.

The law seemed like it was designed to be ignored in the first place, and really its no surprise it has been for so long. Perhaps Bennett and Artiles would be better off enacting legislation that would limit government funding of sports arenas in the future rather than trying to collect money given out years ago.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

Herald Poll- Opposition to Casinos Growing- Work Still Needs to go on. Lobby your legislators!

Poll: Miami-Dade voters evenly split on casinos, but opposition growing

After months of debate, Miami-Dade voters don’t clearly support or oppose large-scale casinos, are worried about the local economy and oppose re-naming the Miami Art Museum for a generous donor.

Related Content
Poll: Miami-Dade charter amendments face uphill climb from divided electorate
BY SCOTT HIAASEN AND PATRICIA MAZZEI
SHIAASEN@MIAMIHERALD.COM
Miami-Dade voters are evenly divided on whether to allow casino gambling in South Florida, but opposition appears to be growing even as the Legislature debates competing plans to open the region to Las Vegas-style casino resorts, according to a new poll.

In a survey of 400 registered voters in Miami-Dade, voters split almost equally over the idea of large-scale casinos. The electorate is similarly divided over putting a destination resort and casino in downtown Miami on

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The Miami Herald’s waterfront property.

Pollster Bendixen & Amandi International conducted the poll Tuesday through Thursday for The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, WFOR-CBS 4 and Univisión 23 to gauge voters’ attitudes about casino gambling and other local issues. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

On gambling “the vote in the electorate is still very much split,” said Fernand Amandi, the firm’s managing partner.

Forty-four percent of respondents said they supported the concept of Las Vegas-style resorts, while 46 percent said they opposed it — a narrow difference within the poll’s margin of error. Ten percent did not answer or offered no opinion.

The poll also asked about specific plans for a $3.8 billion casino resort on Biscayne Bay proposed by Genting, a Malaysian casino company that bought The Herald property last year. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they supported the plan, and 45 percent said they were opposed — again within the margin of error — with 9 percent offering no opinion.

The voters’ attitudes toward Genting’s proposal remained largely unchanged even after hearing arguments for and against the project, the survey found. The poll is the first to publicly gauge voter sentiment about the Genting proposal.

The poll appears to reflect an increase in opposition to casinos in recent months: Just seven months ago, a Miami Herald survey of likely voters found only 38 percent opposed casino gambling in Miami and Miami Beach, with 50 percent supporting casinos and 12 percent saying they had no opinion.

Since that time, several civic and business leaders have spoken out publicly against Genting’s Miami project, which, as currently drawn, would be larger than any resort in Las Vegas. A second casino operator, Las Vegas Sands, is also exploring a casino, hotel and convention center downtown, and a third, MGM Resorts International, has also expressed interest.

In Tallahassee, lawmakers are considering differing proposals that would expand gambling by allowing a handful of casinos at mega-resorts costing at least $2 billion. Bills in the Senate and the House of Representatives would require local voters to approve any casinos by referendum.

Genting officials said they are confident that voters will accept casino gambling as they learn more about it.

“The bottom line is that the proposed legislation gives voters the last word on destination resorts. Those opposing the legislation want to deny local residents their right to make their voices heard on this issue,” said Jessica Hoppe, an executive with Genting subsidiary Resorts World Miami in a statement to The Herald.

Opponents of casinos worry about crime and a deteriorating quality of life: 39 percent of those polled who oppose casinos said they believe gambling will harm the community, and 22 percent said they worried casinos will attract more crime. Another 23 percent of opponents said they opposed gambling on principle.

“I think there’s a lot of bad things that happen when there is gambling in a city,” said Bernardo Lederman of Surfside. “I think all kinds of individuals who are not very honest are going to get most of the money and take it out of here.”

Of those who favor Vegas-style casinos in Florida, 55 percent said they approve because they believe casinos will create more jobs; Genting, for example, has said its Miami resort would bring 19,000 new jobs to the city. Another 24 percent of supporters said they think casino resorts will help the local economy, and 12 percent said they will boost tourism.

“It brings the tourists here. It gives them something to do besides sitting on the beach,” said Barry Haber, a gambling supporter from Kendall. Haber scoffs at the notion that casinos will attract a criminal element: “The bad guys are already here,” he said.

While the poll suggests that casino supporters have more work to do to win over the community, Miami-Dade voters have approved gambling before: Four years ago, they approved a referendum allowing slot machines at local pari-mutuels.

“Miami-Dade residents have repeatedly voiced their support for gaming in the past and are now learning about the positive economic impacts that can derive from destination resorts,” Hoppe said.

A majority of those polled did not believe The Miami Herald building merits protection as an historic structure, as some preservationists have said.

The Herald poll also shows that Miami-Dade voters are increasingly worried about the state of the local economy — and they fear their own finances are going to get worse, not better.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed identified unemployment and the weak economy as the single most important problems facing Miami-Dade County. In a similar Miami Herald poll last May, only 18 percent of the respondents said unemployment was the county’s biggest problem, and six percent cited the weak economy.

Twenty-one percent of those surveyed in the newest poll said corruption in county government was the biggest problem in Miami-Dade.

Only 16 percent said their personal financial situation has improved in the past year, while 40 percent said their financial status remained the same. Forty-two percent said their financial condition was “a little worse” or “a lot worse” than last year.

A majority of respondents, 55 percent, said they believe the economy and job opportunities in the county are getting worse. Among Hispanics, 64 percent believe the county’s economics are getting worse, and 55 percent of African-Americans surveyed are down on the economy.

Twenty-three percent of those surveyed believe that the economy is improving, and 22 percent did not answer or did not have an opinion.

The Herald poll found that few voters paid attention to the controversy over the naming rights of the Miami Art Museum, which will be named for developer Jorge M. Perez in exchange for a $35 million gift of cash and art. Some museum donors and board members objected to changing the name of the museum, which is being built with more than $100 million in public dollars.

Almost two-thirds of those polled said they were not paying close attention to the dispute. But after hearing arguments on both sides of the issue, 54 percent of respondents said re-naming the museum was a “bad idea.”

One issue received almost unanimous consent from those polled: 92 percent of respondents said they supported a legislative proposal to ban texting while driving.

NY’s Bad Bet- And Miami’s- Watch out for Destination Casinos

New York’s Bad Bet
By PAUL DAVIES
Published: January 22, 2012, NY Times

City Room: Cuomo’s Push for Casinos Not Good News for All Gamblers (January 5, 2012)
THE governor of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, is sending his state down the same wrongheaded path as other states that are trying to gamble their way out of economic trouble by legalizing commercial casinos.

The casinos might create jobs and generate revenue for state coffers, but those gains would come at a cost that casino supporters ignore or play down. Various studies, including research by the economist Earl L. Grinols at Baylor University, have shown that casinos produce little to no economic spinoff and in fact divert spending away from surrounding businesses like restaurants, movie theaters and live entertainment. In the worst cases, some problem gamblers spend money that is needed for groceries, rent or child support.

More broadly, casinos are nothing more than a regressive tax that extracts wealth from the very citizens who can least afford it. The details of Governor Cuomo’s plan — which requires changing the State Constitution — remain largely under wraps but will likely follow the blueprints of other states that have allowed casinos at select locations.

While those casinos are billed as “destination resorts,” they are really convenience casinos — typically the size of a big-box retailer — that rely mainly on repeat gamblers who live in the area. Many are located in rural and working-class towns and cities that cater mainly to low rollers, not James Bond-type jet-setters.

A casino in downtown Cleveland is opening this year in a former department store. Steve Wynn wants to build a “low rise” casino in Foxborough, Mass., near a shopping center and the New England Patriots’ football stadium. The Sands opened a casino in Pennsylvania in 2009 on the site of a Bethlehem Steel plant.

Florida, Illinois, Kentucky and Maine are among the states considering similar moves to raise revenue. It is all part of a broader gambling expansion that includes efforts to legalize Internet gambling at the federal level and in several states. New Jersey wants to legalize sports betting.

Thirty years ago, Las Vegas and Atlantic City were the only legal casino destinations in the country. But over the last few decades there has been a steady increase in lottery offerings, riverboat casinos and gambling on Indian reservations. Today, 41 states have some form of casino gambling, and all but 7 have a lottery.

Governor Cuomo is correct that New York — which has a state lottery, casinos on Indian reservations and video lottery terminals at the Aqueduct Racetrack — is already in the gambling business. Many New Yorkers also travel to Atlantic City, Pennsylvania and Connecticut to gamble. But making gambling even more convenient to residents is not the answer to the state’s budget or unemployment woes. Lawmakers are sworn to protect residents, not make it easier for them to lose money.

The economist Paul A. Samuelson described gambling as the “sterile transfer of money or goods between individuals, creating no new money or goods.” Warren E. Buffett called gambling a “tax on ignorance.” Governor Cuomo’s father, Mario, himself a former governor, understood the negative impact. “There is a respectable body of economic thought that holds that casino gambling is actually economically regressive to a state and a community,” he wrote in a 1994 book, “The New York Idea.”

Indeed, studies show that where casinos are established there is often an increase in crime, bankruptcy, divorce and suicide. A study last year by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County found that one in every 30 state residents had a gambling problem. Those most at risk for developing gambling addictions are single men between the ages of 18 and 29, either African-American or Latino, with less education and income than the overall population.

For New Yorkers, opening casinos closer to home would create new gamblers and prompt many residents to gamble more often, especially low rollers who are more likely to get hooked on slot machines. That has been the case in Pennsylvania, which legalized slots in 2004.

At the Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pa., many gamblers come in an average of three to four times a week — or roughly 150 to 200 times a year, David Jonas, the former president and the chief operating officer of the casino, said at a gambling conference in 2010.

Over all, the number of calls to Pennsylvania’s problem gambling help line jumped by 26 percent in the first quarter of last year, according to the Pennsylvania Council on Compulsive Gambling.

New York can expect the same payoff from its bad bet.

Paul Davies, a journalist and a fellow at the Institute for American Values, edits an anti-gambling blog.

Seminole Leader’s Perspective

Protect the Seminole gaming compact

Re the Jan. 12 story Attorney general throws wrench into slot-machine referendums statewide: We would like to say a hearty sho-naa-bish (thank you), to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for the strong opinion she delivered on Jan. 12 denying the legality of slot-machine gaming referendums across Florida.

Given the highly charged, complicated atmosphere surrounding destination resort casino legislation now creeping through the Florida Legislature, it is refreshing that one Florida leader has stepped forward to bring a sense of fair play to this ever-growing shadowy situation.

Bondi is correct in her opinion that individual county referendums approving slot machines at existing pari-mutuel facilities violate the Florida Constitution. She has directed the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation not to approve slot-machine licenses based on upcoming votes.

She found that such referenda are valid only if pre-authorized by the Legislature or the state Constitution. Her words brought a strong dose of reality to fast-track gaming interests in two rural Florida counties. They were barely two weeks from conducting the special referenda.

When we first heard about the current legislation to significantly expand gaming in Florida, the Seminole Tribe of Florida stood squarely in support of the gaming compact that the tribe signed with the state of Florida in 2010.

We have called upon Gov. Rick Scott, the Cabinet and the Florida Legislature to protect this agreement, which was signed in good faith, against all attacks on its integrity.

We hope Bondi will stand firm when the arrows start to fly from those who thought they could sneak in under her radar.

The terms of the compact clearly preclude slot machines at facilities outside of Broward and Miami-Dade counties and make no provisions for special referenda without legislative approval.

James E. Billie, chairman, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Hollywood

Tony Sanchez Jr., president, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Hollywood