Daily Archives: January 9, 2012

Palm Beach Post Opposes New Gambling BIll

By THE PALM BEACH POST
Updated: 6:50 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, 2012

First reports to the contrary, the revised “destination resort” casino bill from state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, wouldn’t ban Internet cafes. So there goes what we potentially liked most about her new effort, one of the most controversial issues the Legislature will consider as it convenes this week. In fact, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee gets its first look at the new draft Monday.

Sen. Bogdanoff said Thursday in an interview that she doubts the state can ban the 1,000 or so Internet cafés, which have sprung up in strip malls to offer “sweepstakes” games that mimic slot machines. Instead, she said, the revised bill would make them pay taxes – “They pay nothing now” – and ban new ones.

That’s something, but not enough to make the whole casino package palatable. The overall effect still would be a major expansion of gambling in Florida.

Sen. Bogdanoff and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, envisioned a bill that would allow up to three Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida and create a “gaming commission” to regulate all forms of gambling. That has morphed into a proposal that would allow any pari-mutuel, such as the Palm Beach Kennel Club, to add slot machines and become full-fledged casinos under one condition: “The voters need to have the last say,” Sen. Bogdanoff said.

Pari-mutuels and the “racinos” of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, which got slots after an earlier voter-approved gambling expansion, now pay 35 percent in taxes. Sen. Bogdanoff wants to lower that at least

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to 18 percent once the first “destination resort” casino opens. Casinos would pay 10 percent.

It’s impossible to know how many big casinos might come to Florida. It’s impossible to know how many parimutuels and racinos would expand to what extent. So it is impossible for state economists to project with confidence what the revised gambling law would bring in. At first blush, it looks as if betting establishments will get to keep a lot more of their winnings. That would be a loss on top of the $250 million a year the state would lose because the Seminole compact is based on exclusivity that would vanish. Some early reports also said Rep. Bogdanoff wanted to make big casinos pay 18 percent too. But she said casino companies told her they wouldn’t come to Florida for that.

To clear the way for “destination resort” casinos, backers have to buy off the racinos/pari-mutuels with the promise of additional games and/or a tax cut. But tying legislative approval for big casinos to expansion at racinos and pari-mutuels undermines Sen. Bogdanoff’s stated intent to curb gambling in Florida.

We agree with Sen. Bogdanoff that gambling in Florida is poorly planned and regulated, but neither her original bill nor the revision helps much. Claiming that the bill would control gambling is a tactic to get the resort-casino measure through a House dominated by social conservatives. The original bill targeted South Florida, to mollify theme park-affiliated Central Florida legislators who don’t want to tarnish the state’s Disney/family-friendly “brand.”

That brand is worth protecting. So is the biotech brand Florida is growing, from Scripps and Max Planck in Palm Beach County to Torrey Pines in St. Lucie County to the Burnham Institute in Orlando. Gambling carries high social costs, including crime and addiction, cannibalizes existing tourism businesses and – the clincher – repeatedly has failed to pay off on previous promises of magic money for schools.

Throw out everything except new regulations for Internet cafés. After flirting with “destination resort” casinos and a “gaming commission,” that might seem a big comedown. In fact, it would be a big improvement over legislation that would guarantee an explosion of gambling in Florida.

– Jac Wilder VerSteeg,

for The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board

Write Your Legislators ASAP – See below

The committee hearing the issue on Monday is Regulated Industries.

The final bill is still being revised and may not be delivered to the committee until just before the deadline which is 3:15.

At this point, we are not sure whether or not the committee will vote on the issue on Monday.

If they do vote, chances are good that it will pass, probably just to keep the bill alive in order to keep the casino developers’ money rolling in to our elected officials. The thought is that there is not much that can be done to
convince the committee to vote otherwise. But if it passes, the bill will next be heard in the Budget Committee. At that point, we will need to get everyone engaged in sending letters, emails and making phone calls.

Best case scenario is the bill comes up for a vote on Monday and dies in committee (I can dream, no?).

Included are names and emails of members of the Regulated Industries Committee just in case anyone wants to send messages. Yet you should prepare to get the word out about the Budget Committee, assuming the bill passes.

Senator Dennis Jones, Chair
jones.dennis.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Maria Lorts Sachs, Vice Chair
sachs.maria.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Thad Altman
altman.thad.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Ellen Setnor Bogdanoff
bogdanoff.ellyn.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Oscar Braynon
braynon.oscar.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Charlie Dean
dean.charles.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla
portilla.miguel.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Nan Rich
rich.nan.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Gary Siplin
siplin.gary.web@flsenate.gov

Senator John Thrasher
thrasher.john.web@flsenate.gov

Herald on Epic Batte Ahead in State Legislature

Posted on Saturday, 01.07.12

Resort casino debate could become epic battle

As each of the state’s most powerful business and political interests line up to fight over the fate of destination resort casinos, emotional appeals for jobs will be pitted against emotional concerns about the future of Florida

State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a mega-casino supporter, addresses the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce in November at Jungle Island. WALTER MICHOT / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

BY MARY ELLEN KLAS
TALLAHASSEE — Despite the promise of thousands of jobs and the millions of dollars spent on lobbying and land buying, the proposal to bring destination resort casinos to Florida faces steep odds when lawmakers take up the landmark proposal during the 60-day legislative session that begins Tuesday.

Senate sponsor Ellyn Bogdanoff last week released a 170-page rewrite of the bill to help take pressure off reluctant lawmakers by including a requirement that any county — including Miami-Dade or Broward — that wants to attract one of three mega resorts must first get voter approval.

To win over supporters of the existing pari-mutuels, the revised bill allows them to operate Las Vegas-style games and receive a lowered tax rate if they compete directly with the new casinos. And across the state, any struggling horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons would be allowed to ask voters to let them install slot machines.

The bill also attempts to win over gaming opponents. Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, and the House sponsor, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, would ban new pari-mutuel permits, regulate or close down “maquinita” establishments that cater to small-bore gamblers and set up a strict new regulatory structure. The state would create a new “Department of Gaming Control” to administer and license the casino resorts and regulate the pari-mutuels and card rooms.

“Our goal is a significant reduction in gaming,’’ Fresen said. “That’s the only shot this bill has.”

There is no guarantee these changes will assuage the critics on Monday when the bill comes up for its first vote in the Senate in a pre-session committee hearing. But the bigger test is in the House, where a conservative Republican majority and a presiding officer whose home territory includes Disney World in Orlando are reluctant to open the door to anything that could harm the state’s family-friendly tourism image.

One thing is certain about the looming legislative debate over gambling: It will be an epic battle in Tallahassee.

BATTLE LINES

The state’s most powerful business and political interests have lined up on both sides — pitting emotional charges of lost quality of life against promises of jobs.

On one side are religious groups, restaurant, tourism and lodging companies, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Orlando’s Disney Company, which are financing lobbyists, consultants, television ads and polls to kill the bill. On the other side are national and international casino resort companies, including Genting Americas, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Corporation, Associated Industries of Florida as well as building trade and construction groups that see the multi-billion construction project as a way to stanch the exodus of skilled workers from South Florida.

On the sidelines is the pari-mutuel industry. It is making demands of legislators, particularly Broward and Miami-Dade Democrats they have supported financially for years. The South Florida racinos argue that they paid a 50-percent tax rate under former Gov. Jeb Bush for the privilege of operating slot machines and now say they won’t pay the $100 million investment required to get casino games under Bogdanoff’s bill.

Across the political spectrum, powerful business and political leaders, from Miami auto magnate Norman Braman to former U.S. Senator and Gov. Bob Graham, are urging legislators to vote against the casino bill as bad for the state.

“We have a lot of people in Miami-Dade County who have worked hard to make the community the kind of place it is today and this is not the direction they want to see Miami go,’’ said Sen. Nan Rich, the Senate Democratic leader.

Although insisting “I’ve not made up my mind,’’ Rich said she believes that three resort casinos in South Florida “would destroy the quality of life in our community.”

Bogdanoff counters that the state’s current loophole-ridden approach to gambling has been driven by a pari-mutuel industry that she says profits off “predatory regional gaming.”

“We need to redirect our gaming to bring in international trade shows and conventions,’’ she said.

Then there are the revenue consequences. A mega-casino in South Florida could mean the end to Florida’s annual gambling payments from the Seminoles under current terms of the tribe’s deal with the state and cannibalize the existing racino industry. The state’s chief economist predicts that the net impact of three $2 billion destination resort casinos would offset that loss through money from new construction, new tourists and as much as $455 million in new tax revenue over the next four years.

Against the backlash, the casino resort industry is pushing on all fronts. Genting, the Malaysian conglomerate that has spent nearly half a billion dollars on The Miami Herald’s bayfront property and surrounding real estate, has hired dozens of lobbyists and consultants, and spent an as-yet undisclosed amount on political contributions.

NEW YORK’S GAMBLE

As Florida legislators move reticently forward on Genting’s bold plan to bring a $3.8-billion resort and convention center to Miami, Genting worked quietly with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ink a deal to bring a massive convention center and casino to the company’s newly remodeled Aqueduct racetrack property in Queens. Cuomo announced in his state-of-the-state speech last Tuesday that his administration was working with the company to build the nation’s largest convention center near the JFK airport and that he would push for a state constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling.

But the crown jewel of the U.S. gaming market remains Miami because of its climate, beaches and tourist draw. Legislators have read the statewide polls that show support for three casino resorts is overwhelming in South Florida; less so in other

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parts of the state. Polls financed by Genting and the Las Vegas Sands show that voters in all parts of the state warm to the idea, however, once the proposal is described to them.

Fresen and Bogdanoff believe the legislative resistance is melting as a result.

“I don’t think there’s the repulsion there used to be in the House,’’ Bogdanoff said. “Everybody understands we have ignored this issue way too long.”

Some legislators predict their colleagues will do nothing more than close the gambling loopholes and crack down on the unregulated storefront casinos

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that have proliferated because of Florida’s vague sweepstakes law.

“It’s easier to say no than yes,’’ said Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West. He predicts the bill won’t pass this year, allowing legislators to continue to collect political contributions from the profitable industry.

“Do you really think they’ll let them walk away with a bill in their hands when they could keep them on the hook for another year? It’s a cynical view,” he said, “but it’s just the way it works.”

Comment on the Dumb Chamber Vote by eyeonmiami.blogspot.com

Thursday, January 05, 2012- From www.eyeonmiami.blogspot.com

Gambling: Chamber Idiots read the Friggin’ Newspaper. By Geniusofdespair
Miami Chamber of Commerce: This is a BAD DEAL!!!

I cannot believe the Miami Chamber of Commerce endorsed the casino idea. Do

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they not know how to read? Do they not see what a BAD DEAL this is? It was reported as such on 11/19/11 — the Miami Herald said that Florida’s proposed 10% tax was a jackpot for the industry. A 10% casino tax would be the 4th lowest in the country. 18 States charge more. And, we would have to lower the current rates for the racinos if this 10% gets approved.

Pennsylvania charges a 55% gambling tax. In New York the revenue retained by the operator is 33.47% which leaves 66.53% for New York. Casinos in New York have a $1.088 billion dollar gross revenue. The gaming tax revenue is $503.48 million. Even West Virginia keeps 54.14%. The casinos still make plenty of money (Gross revenue $877.65 million – Tax Revenue $378.79 million).

This phony job creation crap: West Virginia’s 5 casinos employ 4,528 and Colorado’s 37 casinos employ 9,589. New York has 8 casinos and they employ 3,465 people. That is a measly 433 for each venue. In comparison, the county employs 3,000 people that make over $100,000. President of Resorts World Colin Au stated the 3 casinos in Florida would create 100,000 permanent jobs. That is highly unlikely since Nevada has 256 casinos and only employs 175,000.

Miami Chamber of Commerce: READ THE NUMBERS FOR EACH STATE. And, city of Miami you might look at Maine that lets 3% of gross gaming revenue go directly to the city of Bangor and Kansas sends 3% to its local government.

I keep asking: WHY ARE WE GETTING SUCH A BAD DEAL IN FLORIDA?? We know our politicians are a bunch of idiots but come on, our business community should be smarter when there is a dollar sign involved.

Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sinks To New Low … by gimleteye
The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce (that once failed to supervise its own book keepers who ran off with the bank account) simply cannot get it right. By whatever conception the “free market” best provides for the public good, the Chamber defies that logic. Now the Chamber shoots Miami in the foot by “endorsing” casinos despite considerable dissent among business leaders. Those who oppose casinos in Miami have facts on their side. It’s a shame, but just another notch in the Chamber’s super-wide, fat belt including, most recently, Chamber opposition to Florida Hometown Democracy. Casinos are a scavenger economic activity. There are enough scavengers to make a meal of Florida without introducing a new power base for corruption.