Latest News
11/6/11 TO 11/12/11

'Casinos are not the solution to everything,' Marco Rubio warns

FL - Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, has not closely reviewed or made up his mind on proposals to bring mega casinos to Miami... But pro-gambling legislation also passed in the chamber when he led it as Speaker. / November 7, 2011

Bergeron lawyer applies for jai-alai in Weston

FL - A lawyer for developer Ron Bergeron wants to bring jai-alai - and maybe slots and poker - to Weston. Weston, a city of 65,000 that touches the Everglades, <> 's westernmost city. The four pari-mutuels in Broward County... And the three casinos operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida are all east of U.S. 441/State Road 7, and six of the seven are east of Florida's Turnpike. The number of jai-alai frontons nationwide has dwindled from 14 to six, and the only fronton in Broward County... Often draws fewer than 100 patrons. "Gambling continues to grow as we stick our head in the sand," she (Bogdanoff) / November 07, 2011

Broward builder Bergeron wants jai alai in Weston

FL - Bergeron and Romanik are following in the footsteps of Magic City Casino in Miami, which is pursuing a new jai alai facility in Miami-Dade County. The move may be pre-emptive as a host of players position themselves to vie for expanded gambling that might be in the offing as part of legislation filed recently in Tallahassee. / November 8, 2011

Does Florida's 'Destination Casino' Bill Need a New Deal?

FL - "My reading of the bill is that it will not stand a constitutional challenge," said William Thompson, an industry analyst at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "It is unconstitutional to charge one casino 10 percent and another 35 percent for the same kind of gaming." Thompson says the principle of "horizontal equity" -- "equal taxes on equal objects" -- was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court struck down an Iowa law that had set a 35 percent tax rate on slot revenues at racetracks and a 22 percent rate on slots at other casinos in the state. / November 8, 2011

* * * Casino Revenues Remain a Gamble for Florida, State Economists Say

FL - Economic reports released Thursday indicate that the revenue from three high-end resort casinos -- proposed in two bills now before the state Legislature -- may not cover the lost annual revenue from the Florida Seminoles or those other pari-mutuel facilities. Those facilities now produce an estimated $393 million a year -- $343 million guaranteed -- to the state. Meanwhile, beyond one-time application and certain licensing fees, the three proposed casinos are projected to generate $98 million to $210 million for state coffers each year through a 10 percent tax on earnings, Any casino operator seeking to open a facility in Florida would be required to pay a $1 million application fee to the state commission, a $50 million one-time licensing fee if the application is successful, and a $2-million-a-year license renewal fee. / November 11, 2011

Casino backer blasts critics for being against competition

FL - "It blows my mind that a business group would say competition is a bad thing," State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Republican representing Fort Lauderdale, told an audience of business executives Monday morning. "We are a free-market country." At the chamber forum, a top official with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association described the casino plan as a threat to the state's tourism industry, with smaller businesses sure to fail once the new competition arrives. Gambling opponents criticized the panel as too pro-casino because only the lodging association speaker was adamantly against the new resorts. No Casinos chairman Dan Gelber, a former state senator from Miami Beach, called the event "a sales pitch and nothing but a sales pitch." His group was not part of the panel. Bogdanoff said the Senate would likely level out the tax rates -- or provide "parity" for racetracks and jai-alai frontons --before approving a casino bill. Fresen referred to trade groups opposing the bill as "anti-competition" organizations, / 11.07.11

Challenges promised to gambling permits issued under state loophole

FL - The Scott administration's decision to issue a jai-alai permit in Miami and a barrel-racing permit in the tiny North Florida town of Gretna has unleashed a mad dash across the state... Florida's Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering last week received the second application for a summer jai-alai permit based on a 1980 loophole in state gambling law. In the backdrop of this tug-of-war over pari-mutuel permits is the ongoing debate over whether the state should authorize destination resort casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and whether to give the state's existing pari-mutuels the same games and tax rates. If the Legislature authorizes the resort casinos and gives pari-mutuels parity, the value of a pari-mutuel license would soar. Rutledge, who once lobbied for Rick Scott and hospital chain Columbia-HCA, has the added advantage of having been director of the Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering in 1980, when lawmakers passed the loophole. The Florida Quarterhorse Racing Association has filed a legal challenge against the state, arguing the state has no authority to issue the pari-mutuel permit for the Gretna Race Track because barrel racing is not a pari-mutuel sport. / 11.09.11

Chamber forum on 'destination gaming' underscores rifts in debate

FL - "It blows my mind that a business group would say competition is a bad thing," said Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff... The Florida Retail Federation joined the state hotel and restaurant association in opposing the plan, along with the Florida Chamber of Commerce. / November 8, 2011

Correction: State economists estimate casinos will cost state $2 - $90 m in losses

FL - A modest $153 million in the first year... / 11-11-11

Disney Could Foil Florida Gambling Expansion Attempts

FL - Disney definitely holds some clout and could sway public and political opinion (the group employs over 60,000 workers from the area and donates around $2 million to political causes), and could prove a major obstacle in the efforts to introduce legislation. / November 7th, 2011

Does Florida's 'Destination Casino' Bill Need a New Deal?

FL - Florida's "destination casino" bill could be destined for a court challenge if it is not drastically redrafted or defeated outright at the Legislature, gaming observers say. "My reading of the bill is that it will not stand a constitutional challenge," said William Thompson, an industry analyst at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "It is unconstitutional to charge one casino 10 percent and another 35 percent for the same kind of gaming." Thompson says the principle of "horizontal equity" -- "equal taxes on equal objects" -- was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court struck down an Iowa law that had set a 35 percent tax rate on slot revenues at racetracks and a 22 percent rate on slots at other casinos in the state. John Stemberger, an Orlando attorney and a leading casino opponent, said the Seminoles' opposition to HB 487 "makes the odds of the bill less likely to pass." "One of the practical problems with this bill is that it is such a big advancement at once. The gambling industry is used to a more sneaky incremental strategy, but this is bold, sweeping and significant. / November 8, 2011

Estero bookkeeper accused of bilking $100,000 from business

FL - An Estero bookkeeper is accused of taking over $100,000 from his employer's bank accounts. He claims to have gambling and alcohol problems. / November 10, 2011

Fla. gambling debate economic boom for lobbyists

FL - Gov. Rick Scott, however, has already called the pending fight a "lobbyist relief act." More than 100 lobbyists have signed up to represent various gaming companies. Many of the lobbyists hired so far have ties to Scott or legislative leaders. They include such figures as former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and former Republican Party of Florida chairman Al Cardenas. South Florida lawmakers who want casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have suggested banning cafes in exchange for permitting large destination resort casinos. A political committee set up by Cannon took a $25,000 check in March from one of those supporting Internet cafes. / November 09, 2011

Florida Lottery: Upping the Ante

FL - Lottery Secretary Cynthia O'Connell, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year, calls her organization "aggressive" in its pursuit of new revenue through initiatives such as a rebranding effort, new products, vending machine sales and a coming frequent-players club. It scored a major victory when it began selling tickets in 27 Walmart neighborhood markets in a pilot program. Walmart has historically refused to sell lottery tickets in its stores in the United States. / 11/9/2011

Florida retailers say no to gambling

FL - The Florida Retail Federation today released a statement saying it, too, would fight against the proposed expansion, which the group says will end up hurting local merchants by "cannibalizing" economic activity... / Nov. 7, 2011

Florida slot machine decision being appealed

FL - An appellate court decision that said the Legislature can approve slot machines anywhere in the state is being appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. If allowed to stand, that ruling would allow lawmakers to permit destination casino resorts in Florida. Also, the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation voted 9-1 Tuesday to file a local bill that would allow slots at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, a dog racing track. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal last month upheld a 2009 law allowing the machines at Hialeah Park although the horse racing track had been excluded from a 2004 state constitutional amendment permitting slots at other pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Adopted by voters in 2004, it permitted slot machines at seven horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons that had been active in Miami-Dade and Broward in the two years before the amendment went into effect if approved in local referendums. / 11.08.11

For common-sense gaming reform

FL - Recently, there has been an explosion in the number of storefront "games of skill" enterprises, which are also unregulated. These operations have divided our law-enforcement community -- which views them as illegal -- and some elected officials who do not. Now, with the prospect that the state may authorize licenses for destination resorts in South Florida, top quality developers and operators such as Las Vegas Sands, Wynn, Caesar's Palace, Genting and Trump all are staking big bets on the outcome. Trump, with his purchase of the Doral Resort... / 11.09.11

Former aide to House Speaker Dean Cannon wades into gambling fight as lobbyist for internet cafes

FL - State legislators and many top employees in the Florida Legislature are banned from lobbying state legislators for two years after leaving the government. But the law does not cover employees like Fess...

Gambling industry is selling an illusion

FL - Vegas mogul Steve Wynn wants the Miami Beach Convention Center site and made his pitch Wednesday to the mayor and the city manager over a lunch of our famous stone crabs, no less. (An ironic setting given that one of the big fears is that family-owned businesses like Joe's Stone Crab are likely to loose from the displacement such a drastic transformation of our tourism economy would bring, but this is not an industry that worries about moral gestures). Not state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Republican from Fort Lauderdale who says she wants "an intellectually honest debate" -- then proceeds to brand as anti-capitalists anyone who opposes casino gambling resorts in Miami. This illusion is easier to dash: Ever heard of an economist, or any expert for that matter, hired by a firm come up with an opposing view? And who wants one million more tourists a month on our inadequate roads, tapping our water and sewer and emergency services? This is home, you know. For our established businesses to cash-in on the growing Asian tourism market, we don't need casino gambling, but a targeted strategy from business leaders. / Nov 11, 2011

* * *Gambling industry is selling an illusion

FL - That's the illusion the gaming industry sells. It's the same brand of illusion the suave Malaysian and Las Vegas casino moguls making the rounds in South Florida are peddling to the populace, the press and politicians all too eager to applaud ready-made deals. Those willing to gamble away Miami's future on such promises made their exaggerated pitches this week to the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, throwing around lots of billion-dollar figures to rousing applause. We're in a recession like everyone else, but we don't need the quick-fix charity of a dominant, insular, and highly risky industry that has done little to elevate the places where it exists. The promoters can't point to a single place in the United States we can compare to, but urge us to check out Singapore, We're being dealt a losing hand, and we've got little to gain and a lot to lose. / 11.11.11

Gaming jobs welcome -- if high-paying and local, Labor Secretary says

FL - U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis... Said she is "supportive" of job creation in Florida through gaming, if the jobs are good-paying and employ local people. / November 9, 2011

Genting Fights Disney, South Beach Over Miami Casino-on-the-Bay

FL - Florida lawmakers will take up bills in January to allow three casino licenses in Miami-Dade County and Broward County to the north for companies investing at least $2 billion. Ellyn Bogdanoff, the Fort Lauderdale Republican sponsor of the Senate measure, said it has only a 50 percent chance of passing. Governor Rick Scott, also a Republican, said he'll consider any measure that's "fair" and "locally decided." Florida already allows gambling at seven casinos run by the Seminole Tribe and one by the Miccosukee Tribe of American Indians. It also permits poker at horse and greyhound tracks, jai-alai frontons and other sites. Slot machines are offered at five places in Miami-Dade and Broward. "When you move into an already established tourism market like Miami, you're going to take money out of existing business and move it into the new big casino," Mark Wilson, president of the state chamber, A 1994 study commissioned by the Florida governor's office found that building casinos would cost the existing tourism industry as much as $2.5 billion as visitors shift spending from amusement parks, restaurants and hotels to gambling. "Casinos are the death knell of any neighborhood," said Tony Goldman, chief executive officer of Goldman Properties, which owns two restored 1930s-era South Beach hotels across the bay from Miami. Casino operators may overstate economic benefits of their projects to get lawmakers' backing, said Earl Grinols... Baylor University... When voters allowed slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward, said Paul Seago, An advertising campaign said the measure could bring $500 million a year in tax revenue. Last fiscal year, slot machines raised about $125 million for Florida, according to state economists. / November 09, 2011

Jack Skelding: Gadsden doesn't have the authority to expand gambling

FL - It may be true that Gadsden County residents will vote soundly in favor of gambling in the referendum scheduled for January. However, it is my opinion that under Florida law Gadsden County is without authority to authorize slot machine gaming. A positive vote on the referendum cannot create authority for the state to issue a slot license. The Gretna facility is authorized to operate pari-mutuel quarter horse racing, and it may be issued a poker room license in the future. Without further legislative authorization, racing and poker are the only gaming activities the facility may legally offer. / Nov. 7, 2011

Legislation could pave way for Florida to become home to largest casino in the world

FL - In total the tribe has agreed to pay the state a billion dollars through 2015 for exclusive rights to games in its seven casinos. Fresen says the deal isn't fair and the state can balance its budget without the Seminole money. / 11/07/2011

Many of Fla.'s biggest businesses say they're neutral on casinos

FL - In fact, in a survey of the 48 businesses who have representatives on the Florida Chamber's board of directors, more than half said they have not taken a position on the casino legislation. The "no position" crowd included Wal-Mart Stores, Florida Power & Light, Darden Restaurants, CSX, Harris, State Farm, A. Duda & Sons, AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Verizon, General Electric and the Gunster law firm. / November, 7 2011

Miami Chamber of Commerce Discusses Mega-Casinos

FL - The bill's sponsors, State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and State Rep. Erik Fresen, of Miami, were both at the meeting, pushing for the concept of bringing the casinos. "What we're trying to accomplish here is to transform gaming in the state," said Sen. Bogdanoff. Not everyone was on board with the casino plans. Dan Gelber, Chairman of South Floridas No Casinos, called Monday's forum "lopsided." / Nov 7, 2011

Miami Dade College planning a Casino & Gaming Institute

FL - Miami Dade College's School of Continuing Education & Professional Development announces on its website that the Casino & Gaming Institute is "coming soon." / November 11, 2011

Miami panel divided on gambling

FL - State Sen. Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff... Countered that the 10 percent tax rate that destination resorts might get is based on a significant, multibillion-dollar investment. She maintained she would support parity on the tax rate, as long as pari-mutuels made the same investment as the developers behind destination resorts. Investment on that scale would certainly cannibalize existing businesses, Turner argued multiple times. / November 7, 2011

Miami-Dade mayor seeks lower pari-mutuel taxes

FL - Mayor Carlos Gimenez is showing support for the state's push to bring destination resort casinos to Miami-Dade, saying he thinks the county should have a say in gambling regulations if or when casino projects move forward. If the legislature approves the bill, said an official with the county attorney's office, resort casinos would be permitted to operate and sell alcohol 24 hours a day. Resort casinos would face a 10% state tax on gross receipts, while pari-mutuels would continue to fork out 35%. "If this bill passes, whoever desires a license, before they go to the gaming commission, has to have the conceptual approval of both the city and the county," he said. "I take that to mean conceptual in the broadest sense." / Nov 10, 2011

Moratorium on Internet cafes moves ahead

FL - A proposed County Commission moratorium on Internet cafes has moved ahead and is expected to come back for a final vote Nov. 22. / November 9, 2011

Occupy Miami: County hall isn't the only Miami institution that needs protesting

FL - 1 Herald Plaza: If Occupy Miami is serious about fighting the corporate takeover of America, look no further than the Miami Herald's headquarters. That's where the Genting Group wants to build the nation's largest casino. The Malaysian company has already started a mad scramble to buy politicians' votes across Florida. If Occupy Miami is looking for a symbol of money, power, and smelly, smelly politics, this is it. / Nov 10 2011

Ormond businessman pleads in investment fraud case

FL - Bilked investors out of more than $1 million... To pay for his own "lavish lifestyle and an ever expanding gambling habit," / November 11, 2011

Our take on: Keep Orlando No.1 family destination

FL - SeaWorld Orlando President Terry Prather told the Sentinel that his park's owners were willing to invest in a major expansion because "it's crystal clear around the world that Orlando is the No. 1 family destination." That identity helped the region top 50 million visitors for the first time last year. / November 9, 2011

Put your bets on slow hermit crabs and fast cops

FL - Of course, the owners of Gretna Racing LLC's affection for rodeo racing is about as heartfelt as Broward developer Ron Bergeron's sudden desire to bring jai alai to Weston. Bergeron's lawyer filed a 42-page application with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering last week. He wants a permit to build a new fronton out on the lonely reaches of U.S. 27 at a time when jai alai audiences have become about as sparse as the Rick Scott fan club. Statewide, the jai alai handle last year shrank to barely half what it was just five years ago. (Dania Jai Alai just unveiled remodeling plans that downsize the fronton arena from 5,000 seats to 1,800.) For that matter, wagering on all of Florida's pari-mutuels, the entire panting menagerie of racing horses, dogs and guys with baskets on their arms, has fallen 43 percent in the last decade. It's all about slot machines. Over 100 state capital lobbyists have been hired by various gaming companies. The quarter horse crowd claims that lowly barrel racing is just a cheaper vehicle for Gretna Racing to qualify for poker rooms and slot machines. / 11.12.11

Retail Federation says no to casino proposal

FL - "Florida has a healthy and vibrant retail economy that is driven by residents and visitors alike," McAllister said in a press release. "We don't believe new resort casinos will help our state's retail economy grow. / November 7, 2011

Scott administration's decision to issue gambling permits draws legal challenges

FL - The decision by the Scott administration to issue a jai alai permit in Miami and a barrel racing permit in the tiny North Florida town of Gretna has unleashed a mad dash across the state for the rare gambling permits but, They will fight the decisions in court. The Florida Quarterhorse Racing Association has filed a legal challenge againt the state arguing the state has no authority to issue the pari-mutuel permit for the Gretna Race Track because barrel racing is not a pari-mutuel sport. / 11-9-11

Seminole Tribe Opposes Resort Casinos

FL - The chairman of the Seminole Tribe broke his silence and vowed to oppose any effort to bring resort casinos to Florida because they would end the tribe's gambling monopoly and breach its revenue-sharing agreement with the state. "Monopolies are a bad thing. Gaming monopolies are toxic," Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, said last week. "For the economic and political health of this state, we need to have competition in that field." / November 12, 2011

Seminoles Playing The Agreement Card In Florida Gambling Battle

FL - The tribe signed a compact with the state last year that allows them to operate blackjack and baccarat games at five of their seven Florida casinos. That agreement states that if lawmakers expand gambling in Florida for the first five years of the compact, the compact would be voided. The Seminoles urged lawmakers to uphold their end of the agreement signed last year. If the legislators ignore the tribe's request, it is likely that lawyers for the tribe would try to get the compact voided. Since new Governor Rick Scott has taken over in Florida, there has been a strong push to add casino resorts in South Florida. / November 11, 2011

Seminoles oppose casino plan and blast legislators for 'insulting comments'

FL - "The Tribe also objects to insulting comments from state leaders trivializing the value of the 20-year exclusive Compact," Billie referred to the comments from Sen. Bogdanoff and Rep. Fresen, which called the compact "toast" and "not worth the paper it is printed on" / November 10, 2011

Seminoles to fight destination casinos

FL - Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, co-sponsor of the destination casino bill, said that more competition - carefully regulated by the state - would help all businesses. "Basically the Seminoles have an exclusive," she said. "They bought a monopoly." State Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, in his argument for destination casinos, said he prefers not to have a deal with the tribe -- legally, a sovereign nation - because he's worried about the state's ability to have "enforcement or regulatory leverage" over them. / November 10, 2011

Senate to workshop casinos bill next week

FL - The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will hold the first of two three-hour workshop on the destination resorts... Jones said he'll take 20 minutes of testimony each from those who wish to speak on the issue and allow out-of-towners to go first. He said he expects his committee to vote on the bill sometime before the second week of the 2012 legislative session... / November 9th, 2011

Slots at dog track could go on PB County ballot under bill backed by local lawmakers

FL - A proposal to expand gambling by allowing slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club cleared an early hurdle Tuesday when Palm Beach County's legislative delegation endorsed a bill calling for a voter referendum on the matter. If the full legislature passes the bill next year, county voters would have the final say on whether to allow slots at the dog track near Palm Beach International Airport west of West Palm Beach. House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Garden, has expressed skepticism about the destination resort bill, saying he remains "philosophically opposed to the expansion of gaming in the state," but he has not taken a position on Abruzzo's bill. The kennel club's president is state Rep. Pat Rooney Jr., R-Palm Beach Gardens. Rooney did not attend Tuesday's meeting because of a scheduling conflict. But he said that if he had attended he would not have participated in the slots discussion or voted on Abruzzo's bill because it would directly affect his business. If the legislature and county voters approve, Abruzzo's bill would allow slot machines beginning in July 2015. / Nov. 8, 2011

State needs to fix gambling frenzy

FL - Barrel racing isn't exactly the sport of kings, and Weston isn't clamoring for a new jai-alai fronton. Both, though, stand to become thorny challenges to those seeking to curb the spread of gambling in Florida. At the moment, interest in gambling is starting to run amok. The real culprit, though, is a gambling loophole the Legislature created roughly three decades ago, and which could prove big enough to drive a gravy train through. / November 12, 2011

Steve Wynn: Miami Beach, not Miami, is the dream location for a resort casino

FL - "I think that Miami Beach is the greatest site for a destination resort in the United States," Wynn said shortly after a lunch with the city's mayor, Matti Herrera Bower... / November 10, 2011