Latest News
12/11/11 TO 12/17/11

As Disney fights casinos, Universal sits on sidelines

FL - Orlando's No. 2 theme-park resort, which draws more than 11 million visitors a year, says it has not taken a position on the controversial legislation, which is shaping up as one of the biggest industry slugfests in the state Capitol in years. SeaWorld Orlando has publicly said it opposes the measure and any others that would expand gambling in Florida. And tourism groups ranging from the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association to the Florida Attractions Association have made defeating the legislation a top priority for the 2012 legislative session. In 1994, Universal gave $50,000 to the political... Group No Casinos to help it campaign against an ultimately unsuccessful constitutional amendment that would have allowed dozens of casinos to be built across Florida. Disney, which argues that adult-oriented gambling is incompatible with family-focused, theme-park tourism, gave more than $500,000 to that campaign. Genting owns and operates Universal Studios Singapore, one of two overseas Universal theme parks. That park, which opened in early 2010, is part of Genting's roughly $5 billion Resorts World Sentosa development... Which also includes a casino. Universal Parks & Resorts, a unit of Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal media division, earns licensing fees from Genting. Theme parks and casinos are like "oil and water: They just don't mix," Speigel (Pres., International Theme Park) said. "We have found in our research that people who come to gamble are not theme-park-goers. They're slot-machine players." / December 17, 2011

As Florida Eyes Resort Casinos As Cash Cows, Economists Warn Against Too High a Bet

FL - Officials from the House, Senate and Office of Economic & Demographic Research have grappled in recent weeks with trying to figure out how much tax money would spin off from proposed bills that would allow up to three "destination" resort casinos in the state. But that number assumes three casino applicants would be approved and that each would pay $50 million in licensing fees. If only one or two were approved, the $155 million total would plummet. The casinos are projected to start operating during the 2015-16 fiscal year, with economists looking at the possibility of reaping $137.2 million in taxes that year. / December 11, 2011

Attorney General Bondi's 'money laundering' claim draws scrutiny

FL - Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi last week spoke of "many money laundering cases" involving the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, but now says her claim was based on one conversation she had with a detective at a party. Tribal Council Chairman James Billie is outraged. She declined further comment. / December 14, 2011

BCC OK's Internet cafe language

FL - Five months after passing a moratorium on opening new Internet Cafes in Clay County, the County Commission has given tentative approval to the criteria for two new ordinances controlling the businesses where gaming occurs. Commissioners only heard a couple of comments during Tuesday's public hearing, but heard no opposition to the ordinance, which would establish where the cafes can be located, including allowable distances from schools and churches, as well as lighting and signage. During public comments, Melissa Gross-Arnold, a Jacksonville attorney, spoke on behalf of businesses with five or fewer gaming machines, such as bars and billiards halls. She said some of these places have removed the machines out of fear of confiscation by the Sheriff's Office. She proposed to the council no caps on the number as well as a clause for the businesses wanting to use them to increase their business, not as their only form of business. There are 13 Internet cafes currently operating in the county. / 14 December 2011

Barrel-racing appeal rejected

FL - Betting on barrel racing can continue at a quarter horse track in the Panhandle at least until the next step in a legal challenge to the new form of pari-mutuel wagering is resolved, an appellate court ruled... The 1st District Court of Appeal issued a brief order denying a request by opponents to temporarily halt barrel racing in Gretna, The barrel racing issue also is being argued in two other venues. The two associations have asked an administrative law judge to rule that the state erred by issuing the license without adopting new rules on barrel racing. / December 14, 2011

* * * Bogdanoff shows her cards

FL - State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, insists that her mega-casino bill (SB 710) and the House version (HB 487) would provide "a major change in the direction of gaming" but would not create a major expansion. The state's attorney general, agriculture commissioner and chief financial officer know better. The Palm Beach County Commission's decision last week toward allowing slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club is proof that the only "direction" in which these bills would send gambling is up. So Cabinet members Pam Bondi, Adam Putnam and Jeff Atwater, formerly a state senator from Palm Beach County, have come out against the gambling expansion. So has Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee. That change alone would undercut Sen. Bogdanoff's claim that her legislation would limit gambling. / Dec. 11, 2011

Bondi Unmoved by Sands' Criticism of Casino Position

FL - A critical letter from Las Vegas Sands isn't going to deter Attorney General Pam Bondi from her stance in opposition to the expansion of gaming in Florida. "While I appreciate a vigorous debate," Bondi stated in a release late Monday, "nothing in Sands' letter alters my belief that Florida needs less gambling, not more; that the introduction of mega-casinos in South Florida would inevitably lead to expanded casino gambling statewide; and that the law enforcement community's opposition to casino gambling is well-founded." "In Hillsborough County, many of the last drug-trafficking cases that they made, the money was laundered through the casino,'' / December 13, 2011

Bondi says her info about money laundering at Tampa Hard Rock came from deputy

FL - Bondi, who last week spoke of "many money laundering cases" involving the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, Las Vegas Sands vice president Andy Abboud responded with a letter to Bondi challenging her suggestion that gambling breeds crime. / December 15, 2011

Bondi stands by her claim that drug dealers use casinos to launder money

FL - As attorney General Pam Bondi on Thursday stood by her claim that drug dealers use casinos to launder their money, a prosecutor and special agent described the practice as common - but not the casino's fault. "Of the hundreds of drug trafficking cases that I've seen, there's a definite correlation,'' said Darrell Dirks, an assistant state attorney in Hillsborough County where Bondi previously worked. He supervises drug trafficking and wire tap investigations for the state attorney for the 13th Circuit in Tampa and believes that drug dealers seek out the casinos because they can buy chips, play for a while and cash in their chips for cash. N his years working as an undercover agent for the IRS and Drug Enforcement Administration, he worked as a conduit for the leaders of drug cartels and their money laundering resources. "Their money launderers took me to their sources who were laundering funds and it was an owner and manager of a casino in Las Vegas, [the Royal Casino],'' he said. Bondi said Thursday she the story also inaccurately referred to a conversation she had with a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy at a fundraiser for an ill deputy as "a party." / December 15, 2011

Bondi: Seminole Casino 'Vigilant,' but Can Be Misused by Money Launderers

FL - "I want to make it clear that I in no way am implying that the casino was involved in any crime," Bondi said Thursday. The comment centered on how drug dealers would go to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, by playing table games that require chips, thus be able to exchange money from the local drug trade for non-drug trade money. "That's a way the drug dealers launder their money, but in no way did I mean to imply the casino was part of it," said Bondi, "By our very nature as sovereign American Indian gaming operators, all of Seminole Gaming, from our small hometown operation in Brighton to our tall Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood, is scrutinized by more eyes at more agencies than any other gaming enterprise in the state.

Braman comments on gambling draw Fresen's response

FL - His (Fresen) comment on reform responded to billionaire car dealer Norman Braman... Who criticized Fresen and others. To Braman, they were suggesting that allowing more gambling was needed to rein in existing gambling. John Sowinski... President of No Casinos, said the bottom-line question should be about the type of community Miamians want. Arriola, former chairman of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, asserted that the scale of the Genting project, which would be located directly next to the arts center, would decimate the facility, which already has a hard time competing for performers with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino... He (Sen. Bob Graham) highlighted the fact that the region has focused on becoming high-tech friendly and that gambling hubs like Biloxi, Miss., are not known as high-tech hubs. / December 12, 2011

Braman comments on gambling draw Senator Fresen's response

FL - The $2 billion investment threshold for destination gambling resorts is somewhat of an insurance policy - if destination resorts are approved they will have to attract international visitors to survive economically, state Sen. Erik Fresen... Fresen also emphasized that the bill under consideration contains a reform component that will allow the state to better regulate gambling in Florida. / December 16, 2011

Broward Mayor Rodstrom: "We would do well'' to get casino at Panthers arena

FL - Broward Mayor John Rodstrom said he met with Panthers Sunrise Sports & Entertainment President Michael Yormark, who is president of the Florida Panthers NHL Hockey Team and runs the county's arena, to talk about a casino at that Sunrise facility. And any deal would likely include profit-sharing from the casino complex to the county, as well. Rodstrom explained why he thought government was stepping into the gambling game: "Government has felt that local government have not been adequately compensated for the incidentals that come with having a casino,'' he said, "the crime, the traffic, the various negative things that come with a casino.'' / December 16, 2011

Business leaders weigh in on how gambling may affect Miami

FL - Community leaders already had an economic development vision for downtown Miami underway before the Genting Group stepped into the picture with its plans for a massive gambling resort. So how does this plan fit with downtown's economic vision as a home for residents, offices and culture? / December 16, 2011

Cannon: Give priority to closing gambling loopholes

FL - The Winter Park Republican told the Herald/Times he agrees with Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, that legislators should focus first on passing a bill to close the loopholes in the state's existing gambling laws before introducing destination resort casinos to Florida. "I think Sen. Thrasher's on the right track,'' Cannon said. "It is difficult to look at what we have today and say it is orderly, thoughtful and predictable." / 12-13-11

* * * Casino impact isn't a sure bet for experts

FL - Economists have been struggling to figure out how much state and local tax dollars would go up if the bill passed. The numbers suggest that three casinos would yield as much as $155 million in 2012 for state and local governments, but then no more than a total of $319 million from 2013-16. State economists have been forced to make a lot of assumptions based on how the legislation is written even though legislators are discussing changes. / December 12, 2011

Casinos face local referendum restriction

FL - Orange County voters would have to sign off before a casino could be built in the area, a county lawyer told top tourism officials Tuesday. The referendum requirement would be a significant obstacle facing any developer thinking of erecting a Las Vegas-style resort anywhere near the Magic Kingdom. What's more, if a referendum was called and did not pass, it could not be resurrected for at least two years. / December 13, 2011

City of Delray Beach hoping to ban sweepstakes Internet cafes

FL - Delray Beach's city manager says sweepstakes cafes operate in a gray area of state law. "They attract a criminal element -- loan sharks -- whatever kinds of things sometimes develop around gambling establishments," said David Harden, the Delray Beach city manager. Delray Beach's city manager says the cafes live in a loophole of state law that bans most gambling, but allows sweepstakes. / 12.12.11

Commissioners vote no on casino expansion

FL - Many Miami Beach residents were happy with Wednesday's vote. "It's great, because we are against casinos," said resident Jo Manning. Another resident, David Granoff, said, "It's paradise here in Miami Beach, and we're all just afraid and leery that they're going to rob us of our paradise." / December

Court denies request to halt quarter horse barrel racing

FL - Court of Appeals in Tallahassee ruled in favor of the owners of a new Gretna race track... And refused to stay their barrel racing games as opponents challenge the activity... / December 13, 2011

Discussions begin for and against Miami gambling

FL - Billionaire car mogul Norman Braman was among those at the Miami-Dade College campus in downtown Miami for a forum, Monday afternoon, to discuss the idea of bringing casino-style resorts to Miami. Braman stands against the casino culture, as he thinks the bill would transform Miami into las Vegas. "We don't want to become another Las Vegas," he said. "I mean, it's nice to visit Las Vegas. I don't want to live in Las Vegas. I don't want my kids or my grand kids brought up in Las Vegas." "I believe that bringing casino gambling here is also bringing crime, burglary, rape, prostitution," Braman said. / 12.11.11

Editorial: Echoes of Askew

FL - When he was governor, Reubin Askew led the opposition to an early drive to legalize casinos in Florida. "If you lay down with dogs," Askew warned, "you're going to get fleas." "Authorizing mega-casinos can lead to increased crime," said Attorney General Pam Bondi. Commissioner Adam Putnam: "It's not what's good for Florida's families. / December 14, 2011

Editorial: Time to pass greyhound 'decoupling' plan

FL - They asked the Legislature to erase rules that required racetracks with card rooms to stage a certain number of dog races in order to retain the gambling privilege. At the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track in Bonita Springs, officials report racing is a $5 million a year loser. / December 11, 2011

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi walks back casino money-laundering claim

FL - The local sheriff's office contradicted her (Bondi) claim in a news release Wednesday, saying "Our office has not conducted any investigation involving money laundering at casinos, nor do we have any official information that this type of criminal activity is/has occurred in Hillsborough County." "We think you will find that there may have been more enforcement actions against banks and other financial institutions than casinos," wrote Sands' Andrew F. Abboud. / 12.14.11

Florida House speaker lukewarm on education boost, St. Johns funding

FL - Cannon again stressed that legislation allowing the construction of "destination casinos" in South Florida faces tough odds. "I am also committed to respecting the process and trying to keep an open mind to enable the proponents to make their case," he said. Cannon supports closing current gambling loopholes over further gaming expansion. It's a stance also held by Thrasher in the Senate. / December 14, 2011

Florida Panthers claim their Sunrise site best in Broward for Vegas-style casino

FL - All the big casino companies are lining up for the chance to set up shop in South Florida if the Florida Legislature opens the door to Vegas-style gambling. The Panthers believe they offer the best bet for success for any that may decide to take a chance on Broward County. The Panthers' site would have to be considered a long shot at this point because casino operators have expressed a preference for Miami out of the belief they have a better chance to make money there. That could change if the casino is amended to back off on the requirement for operators to make a $2 billion investment. The Panthers, whose motto is "We see red," are intrigued by the potential for all the green to be made with a casino on their doorstep. The NHL has no objection. / December 15, 2011

Florida Panthers' arena latest bidder for high-stakes casino

FL - Add the Florida Panthers to the list of South Florida professional sports teams that like the potential synergies between casino gambling and sports. The National Hockey League team has taken several Las Vegas casino operators on tours of the Sunrise property and discussed the possibility of building a destination resort casino on the land surrounding the arena if Florida legislators approve an expansion of casino gambling. The plan is similar to one being explored by the Miami Dolphins. The National Football League prohibits teams from investing in gambling enterprises, but league rules don't prohibit leasing land for a casino. Gulfstream reportedly is in discussions with Caesars Entertainment. The Gulfstream site covers about 250 acres, half now in undeveloped parking lots and also includes the Village at Gulfstream Park, a two-year-old retail and restaurant project. / 12.14.11

Florida appeals court won't stop Gretna barrel racing, legal gambling

FL - TALLAHASSEE - Barrel racing and card playing will continue in Gretna while opponents try to shut the track down in court, The judges gave no reason for the decision, saying only that the plaintiffs had failed to "carry their burden" of why a stay should be granted while litigation continues. Critics contend that barrel racing at the track is a "Trojan Horse", a legal formality to justify the high stakes card games. / 13 December 2011

Florida best consider dark side of gambling

FL - It has been proven that gambling is a monster and once you let him in the door he will take over and you will not be able to control him. / Dec. 14, 2011

Florida mega-casino bills destined to die, insiders say

FL - "I think most observers today think the bill will not pass," Fausto Gomez, a lobbyist hired by Miami Beach officials to track the bill in Tallahassee, told Miami Beach city commissioners during a workshop on the issue Friday. Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez said House Speaker Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican, was not optimistic about the bill during a recent meeting with him and Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower. "Every day that goes by without it being heard, there's less of a chance of it being passed," Rep. Steinberg said. Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam -- all have come out to oppose the bill, / 12-14-11

Former state House speaker Thrasher speaks out

FL - Q: Talk about your opposition to a proposal that would increase casino gambling in Florida. I have been, I guess, the Senate's lead opponent to casino gambling. ... I think it's the wrong thing for Florida to do. We have a brand in this state that's not based on gambling. It's based on family friendly (tourism). ... We should not be basing our budget on the backs of casino gambling, so I'm going to do everything I can to kill the bill. / December 13, 2011

Gambling on the future

FL - He worried that Miami's maturation into an international, art-centric city could be stunted, so he was still weighing his position on gambling in downtown Miami. / December 16, 2011

Gambling resorts make sense for state

FL - Given abysmal finances and high unemployment coupled with Florida's unique demographics and tourist activity, regulated gaming offers the potential to inject thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue.,0,2285584.story / December 13, 2011

Genting Gambles on a Family Approach to Casinos

FL - Genting Group... Is plowing ahead with a proposed US$3.8 billion resort in Miami that could be the world's largest casino, but some worry that the Malaysian company is making too big a splash in its very public approach. To Mr. Lim, a casino linked with wholesome entertainment--the word "family" comes up a lot--is a better business proposition, both financially and politically, than purely a gambling den. WSJ: Several Asian countries, including Singapore, seek to restrict gambling mainly to tourists and discourage citizens from visiting casinos. Do government regulations hinder your business? Mr Lim: I don't subscribe to the "for foreigners only" approach. Then you're looking at it as a one-way traffic. / DECEMBER 12, 2011

Genting pushes back on 'largest casino' claim

FL - The Malaysian company pushing for a massive resort on the Miami waterfront said Monday it does not want to put the world's largest casino there, calling that idea a "myth." A casino planned for the current Miami Herald site would be comparable to some of the biggest in the United States, a top executive for Genting Group told a gambling forum at Miami-Dade College. The company also has been pushing a bill that would allow Genting to build a casino larger than anything else in the gambling industry, since the legislation caps the casino floor at 10 percent of a resort's property. / December 13, 2011

Genting: Our Miami casino won't be the largest in the world

FL - A casino planned for the current Miami Herald site would be comparable to some of the biggest in the United States, a top executive for Genting Group told a gambling forum at Miami-Dade College. That's still a sizeable venture but not the gargantuan casino that critics have seized on in warning Genting's plan would overwhelm downtown Miami. Goode's assertion comes more than a month after its project manager from a top Miami architectural firm outlined the components for a Genting casino that would make it the world's largest. Company representatives said Monday those well-publicized statements were wrong, but offered no explanation as to why they waited so long to correct them. The sudden pushback against the "world's largest casino" charge comes as Genting is under pressure to scale back its Miami plans. / 12.12.11

Genting's Miami casino revenue projections near the top

FL - Genting said this week its casino on the Miami waterfront would not be the largest in the world. But the dollars flowing through the facility are projected to set records. At a public forum on Monday, Genting dismissed past reports it wanted to build the largest casino in the world, revealing it only planned a gambling floor that would be one of the largest in the United States but would still be smaller than the massive casino resorts in Asia. / 12.13.11

Give the dogs a break

FL - The races, which critics say are inhumane, have become increasingly unpopular. Yet state law requires a dog track to run at least 100 live races a year to keep its license for a casino or card room. It appears some tracks are running races solely to ensure they can continue their other gambling operations. Between 2004 and 2010, the amount wagered on live dog racing dropped by 35 percent, and attendance dropped by 69 percent. Between 2004 and 2011, tax revenue from greyhound racing in Florida fell 72 percent. It no longer even covers the costs of regulatory oversight. Young's bill would allow the tracks to conduct gambling without holding races. / December 17, 2011

Guest column: Sheriff Mike Scott weighs in on gambling

FL - Casinos are actually very safe places. While at the Hard Rock, my room card was scanned every time I approached the elevator as a means of confirming who belongs in the hotel. Meanwhile, anyone can walk through the front doors of a hospital and go straight into the elevator unchallenged. So which building is safer? I would submit to you that Florida is already a gambling state and to suggest otherwise would be hypocritical. A single location wherein less than 10 percent of the entire proposal is a casino will not redefine our community or our crime rate, just like a casino onboard does not redefine a cruise ship. / December 15, 2011

* * * Guest opinion: Lee casino would be just another gambling option

FL - Opponents cite crime increases as inevitable, and yet the same can be said for any development of large scale. For example, there is little or no crime on vacant land until that land sports a large shopping mall, school, or residential neighborhood. Casinos are actually very safe places. While at the Hard Rock, my room card was scanned every time I approached the elevator as a means of confirming who belongs in the hotel. Meanwhile, anyone can walk through the front doors of a hospital and go straight into the elevator unchallenged. So which building is safer? A single location wherein less than 10 percent of the entire proposal is a casino will not redefine our community or our crime rate, just like a casino onboard does not redefine a cruise ship. / Dec. 14, 2011

Internet cafes attract critics and criminals

FL - Internet cafes can be targets for robbery because they have a lot of cash. They're also targets of critics who say they are thinly-disguised gambling operations. It seems you see more of them every day and it's estimated that Florida has more than 1,000. The Fun N Sun robbed at gunpoint overnight... / 12/14/11

* * * LV Sands challenges Bondi for suggesting that casinos equal crime

FL - When Attorney General Pam Bondi suggested that casinos will be a magnet for money laundering at her press conference last week, she conjured up images and crime and corruption brought on by gambling dens. Las Vegas Sands Vice President Government Operations, Andy Abboud, shot back in a letter to Bondi. "We think you will find that there may have been more enforcement actions against banks and other financial institutions than casinos,'' he wrote. He then went on to suggest that if Florida has a problem with gambling, it may be because of its weak regulations. "I spoke personally to many law enforcement officers. In Hillborough County, one of the last drug trafficking cases involved laundering money through a casino,'' she (Bondi) said. "I'm here today because I believe authorizing mega casinos would take our state in a fundamentally wrong direction. We need less gambling, not more. We were told giving the Seminoles exclusive rights to casinos would be so lucrative that in floroida that there would be no need for an expansion of gambling. / December 12, 2011

* * * LV Sands to Bondi: More law enforcement action against banks than casinos

FL - Here's the LV Sands letter... The Honorable Pam Bondi... While I certainly respect your moral opposition to expanded gaming I must reiterate to you that Florida is currently a gaming state. There is no form of gambling that cannot occur in the State or on its waters. Between full scale tribal casinos, pari-mutuels with slot machines, poker, and wagering on races, cruises to nowhere with full scale casinos, internet cafes with slot machines, senior arcades, and the state sponsored lottery there is hardly an area of the state where your residents can not gamble. / December 12, 2011

Las Vegas Sands Objects to Bondi's No Casino Comments

FL - "However, what we can say is that the Department of the Treasury, and in particular the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), has promulgated regulations under Title 31 of the Code of Federal Regulations and as authorized under the Bank Secrecy Act that are applicable to casinos and financial institutions in general and that address anti-money laundering. Compliance with these requirements is audited by the Internal Revenue Service or other federal regulatory agencies. You could take a look at the FinCEN website at for records of enforcement actions and determine the compliance record of casinos versus other financial institutions. We think you will find that there may have been more enforcement actions against banks and other financial institutions than casinos. / December 13, 2011

Letter: Not worth the risk

FL - Over the past few weeks, several letters have been written on the possibility of casino gambling being introduced into Naples. While related topics such as addiction, crime and the impact on the social fabric have not been mentioned (and these are very important!), / December 12, 2011

Lincoln Diaz-Balart Lies While Shilling for Genting In Herald Op-Ed Piece

FL - In Saturday's edition of the Miami Herald, former U.S. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart penned an opinion letter... Shilling for his client, Genting, the Malaysian-based gaming conglomerate that wants to transform the last prime piece of downtown Miami's waterfront land into a gargantuan casino. Diaz-Balart uses disingenuous misinformation to relay his message to the residents of Miami-Dade County. He claims "Native Americans have a casino monopoly for which they cannot be taxed." Not exactly. Yet Diaz-Balart doesn't explain the Queens racino is located in a depressed neighborhood, miles away from Manhattan, or that Genting agreed to pay the Empire State a $380 million upfront fee and a 66 percent tax rate ... Singapore's government has maintained its draconian reputation for regulating the behavior of its citizens, who are required to pay $80 for a one-day pass to enter one of the casinos. / Dec. 13 2011

MGM CEO offers views on South Florida casino market potential

FL - If the Florida legislature approves gambling, Murren's company intends to make a play for one of the potential two licenses that could be allotted for Miami-Dade County, he said Thursday during a visit to Miami. And he may build a hotel here even without gaming. Las Vegas-based MGM is focusing its search on the downtown area and Miami Beach. Murren and his team have been watching the Florida market since the 1990s and ramped up its efforts in the last year as gambling heated up in Tallahassee. They're intensely following this year's legislative proposal to allow up to two destination resorts in Miami-Dade County and one in Broward County with a minimum of a $2 billion investment. MGM has rebounded from a near-bankruptcy in 2009 that was driven by a heavy debt load. / 12.15.11

Mardi Gras sues to block new gambling operations

FL - Hallandale Beach's Mardi Gras Casino is suing the state over its decision to allow Magic City Casino to potentially open summer jai alai in Miami, something Mardi Gras executives say is unconstitutional and violates the intent of state law. At issue is a loophole in a 30-year law... Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who opposes the (casino) bill, has advocated that the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, the first committee to vet the gambling bill, first look at the state's gambling law as a whole and close any loopholes that allow for an expansion of gambling past what is already allowed in the state. Then it can talk about destination casinos he said. / December 13, 2011

Miami Beach amps up plans to fight casino legislation

FL - According to the resolution passed Wednesday, Miami... Beach contends that gaming carries "severe and painful economic and social costs," "promotes corruption of the governmental process," and would "exacerbate traffic." That means Wynn, who reportedly offered to pay for the city's ambitious Miami Beach Convention Center expansion project during meetings last month with city officials, would need to look elsewhere to build a casino. City Attorney Jose Smith said he has been speaking with vocal anti-casino activist Norman Braman about a potential legal fight.,0,3164071.story / December 15, 2011

Miami Beach officials vote to oppose casinos and reject legislation

FL - Miami Beach contends that gaming carries "severe and painful economic and social costs," "promotes corruption of the governmental process," and would "exacerbate traffic." / December 15, 2011

Miami Beach reiterates anti-casino stance

FL - Miami Beach commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to oppose any expansion of gambling and urge the Florida legislature to reject a bill that would open up South Florida to destination casino resorts. The vote continues a series of anti-casino votes during the past three years by the Miami Beach commission. It would likely discourage casino operators from eyeing property in the city should the current destination casino resorts bill pass in Tallahassee, because the bill currently requires local approval before a gaming license can be issued. The vote drew cheers from a standing-room only audience in the city's commission chambers. Former State Sen. Dan Gelber, a volunteer with No Casino anda Miami Beach resident, was at the protest to encourage the city to oppose the proposed casino. / 12.14.11

Miami's arts scene frames casinos as threat

FL - Anti-casino advocates gathered in Miami's artiest neighborhood Saturday morning and warned that bringing mega-casinos to South Florida threatens to reverse the city's cultural progress. "Downtown is finally becoming what we want downtown to be,'' former Miami-Dade commissioner Katy Sorenson told a crowd... "We've got some unique, funky Miami kind of things going on. Why do we want to these huge mega-resorts to come in?" "It's (casino) too big. It overwhelms the entire arts concept we had there,'' Eidson said. "We could never come up with a plan that could accommodate that." "It makes the Arsht Center look insignificant,'' he said. "All that money we put into that facility, and you wouldn't even notice it anymore." Genting's plan has galvanized many in Miami's growing arts scene. Norman Braman, one of the city's wealthiest art collectors, is a leader in the anti-casino movement. Jorge Perez, whose $35 million gift would put his name on the Miami Art Museum's new home across I-395 from the Genting site, has criticized the plan. Art Basel, the Swiss-based arts show that comes to Miami Beach in December, has privately warned it might seek a different winter home if the casino resorts move in, according to city officials. "There are a relatively small number of voices criticizing this legislation,'' said Genting political consultant Carlos Curbelo, who also sits on the Miami Dade school board. / 12.11.11

Ministers Speak Out Against Gaming in South Florida

FL - The Reverend Gary Johnson and Reverend Marvin Lue are dead set against a Florida Legislative proposal which would bring thousands of jobs to South Florida. "Every time the black community takes a gamble, we loose," said Wilcox. "We are always promised jobs, did that happen? No!" "It is a hard sell when you have been unemployed two to three months, maybe a year and there is a possibility that you could get a job. But that job may be a cost to your family because of what it represents, " Lue said. / Dec 15, 2011

More on Florida's ongoing Internet cafe debate

FL - Officials from the state to local levels still are grappling with what to do -- if anything -- about "Internet cafes" in Florida. / December 13, 2011

NHL Gives Florida Panthers The Right To Pursue Vegas-Style Casino

FL - The NFL has long been against interacting gambling with their sports product. Until the owners approved team-themed lottery tickets a couple of years ago, gambling was considered a taboo subject throughout the league. Now, the door has opened to possible gambling partnerships. The Miami Dolphins have started looking into the possibility of partnering with a Las Vegas gaming company, to build a Vegas-style casino resort... Governor Rick Scott flew on Adelson's private jet shortly after winning the election last year. / December 15, 2011

Nearly 160 Lobbyists Working in Florida on Gambling Issues

FL - "Reports put total lobbying expenditures well over $2 million for the year," / December 14, 2011

New proposal to the Miami Beach casino mix may help save the city's convention center

FL - Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, said Tuesday that he would consider requiring casino operators to forego convention space and instead make a contribution to the Miami Beach Convention Center if an economic study found that casino resorts in downtown Miami would hurt business on the Beach. "Nothing in the bill precludes that conversation from happening. Matter of fact, I think it encourages it." Miami Beach is currently seeking investors to help pay for a $640 million convention center expansion project that could also include a hotel and commercial space. Genting Group's proposed resort at The Miami Herald site includes a sprawling ballroom, and the Las Vegas Sands has discussed building a casino resort in downtown Miami that would include 1.5 million square feet of convention space. Abboud (Sands) said requiring a new casino operator to contribute to the Miami Beach Convention Center would be like "requiring the new Winn-Dixie to subsidize the old Publix." / 12.13.11

Nonprofit Internet cafes' history long, cloudy

FL - Seminole County has outlawed what it calls the "simulated gambling devices" found in sweepstakes cafes. Allied Veterans wasted no time in filing a federal lawsuit against the county, claiming the computers in its cafes aren't slot machines and its sweepstakes are similar to games offered by McDonald's and Coca-Cola. Commissioner Kevin Beckner said Internet cafes in Hillsborough do business in areas populated by the elderly or the poor. Duncan's history with bingo goes further back than the games he organized for Allied Veterans. In 1988, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of setting up a fake charity, Army Navy Union of the United States, which held unlawful bingo games in Tallahassee, records show. As part of his probation, he was not allowed to operate bingo games in Florida. / December 11, 2011

Officials consider casinos in Broward

FL - Miami Beach city commissioners held a meeting at Miami Beach City Hall, where they voted unanimously to pass a resolution to oppose the expansion of gambling in Florida. Black clergy members in South Florida banded together on Thursday to speak out against expanded gambling in the state. "This is what the casino is offering to those who are willing to buy themselves out. This is all you're getting," said Pastor Gary Johnson, as he held up a penny. "But this is what they're receiving," Johnson continued, and held up a $1 bill. The hotly-debated issue of expanding gambling in South Florida has now moved to Broward County, / 12-16-11

Palm Beach County considers slot machines to keep up with expanded South Florida gambling

FL - Palm Beach County... Gambling supporters are betting that slot machines offer a way into South Florida's proposed casino gold rush. Allowing slot machines would open the door to more of the casino-style gambling long advocated by kennel club owners, the influential Rooney family. Slot machines that could further enrich the kennel club also threaten to fuel gambling addictions and lead to more crime in already-struggling neighborhoods near the dog track. The county's proposed referendum is contingent on the Florida Supreme Court upholding a lower court ruling allowing voter-approved slot machines at parimutuels without amending the state constitution. The owners, the Rooney family -- who own the Pittsburgh Steelers -- have lobbied for years to get slot machines and other expanded gaming. The Rev. Samuel Henry worries that slot machines feed a gambling habit much more addictive than the dog racing and poker already occurring across the street from his church.,0,155295.story / December 17, 2011

Panthers Interested in Casino in Sunrise

FL - Officials with the hockey team have taken Las Vegas casino operators on tours of their Sunrise property as they explore building a resort casino on the land bordering the BankAtlantic Center, according to the Miami Herald... The team has already cleared the casino idea with the NHL, Yormark said. / Dec 15, 2011

Pinecrest Village Council passes motion to oppose casinos

FL - Pinecrest Village Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to urge state lawmakers to reject any and all new casinos in Florida. "This would cannibalize area hotels and small business. / December 16, 2011

Poll: Voters outside Southeast Florida don't want to bet on casinos

FL - Florida voters are divided across regional lines on the proposal to bring casino resorts to South Florida, with voters in nearly every region except Southeast Florida opposed to the measure, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll of Florida voters Dec. 9-13. The geographic breakdowns are striking: In north Florida 56 percent opposed, while 55 percent opposed in Central Florida, 48 percent opposed and 39 percent supported in Tampa Bay, and 49 percent opposed in Southwest Florida. In Southeast Florida -- from Indian River to Monroe counties -- 37 percent opposed and 50 percent supported. Brad Coker, pollster for Mason-Dixon Research, said "nobody paid for the poll." He instead piggybacked the two questions onto a poll he was doing for a Washington, D.C. client on children's issues. Genting lobbyist and Miami Dade school board member, Carlos Curbelo, criticized the poll as "another bogus, disingenuous poll designed to confuse and misinform.'' / December 15, 2011

Prancing flamingos and galloping horses as Hialeah

FL - Now, he's hoping to add Thoroughbred racing in the near future. Also on the horizon: a seven phase project that will add a casino, hotels, parking garages and restaurants and shops. Daniella Diaz, 8, has her own method of picking horses (though she is not old enough to place a bet.) The second-grader, who comes to the track every weekend with her parents, said she loves to see the race - and spend time with her father, Rey Diaz, of Kendall. Her dad slapped his program against the fence, screaming for his horse to win - which it did. He scored a trifecta- and cashed out with more than $2,200. / 12.16.11

Protesters speak against casinos

FL - On Tuesday, dozens of Miami Beach residents stood on the front steps of the Miami Beach Convention Center and protested the casino officials who are trying to legalize. "No casinos in Miami Beach!" one demonstrator shouted. "It would just overwhelm everything. And the traffic, woah!" exclaimed Elizabeth Fischer, who opposes the casino idea. The Chamber of Commerce is hosting a forum about the casinos Tuesday night, and on Wednesday, the City of Miami Beach will consider a resolution that would oppose the expansion of casino gambling. / December

Reports of addiction spur legislators to look into Florida's 'Internet cafes'

FL - A prominent anti-gambling group reports an increase in hotline calls seeking help for addiction because of the sweepstakes enterprises. The Planning and Zoning Commission initially wanted the businesses 1,000 feet from religious and educational institutions. Laurie Lee, a Jacksonville attorney representing Internet cafe owner Allied Veterans of the World, asked for a change. By his and House staff counts, there are at least 1,000 of them statewide. There is no official oversight, but estimates say the gaming centers are a $1 billion annual business. Any business that takes in a lot of cash is a potential target for thieves, he said. That's one reason convenience stories are required to keep two clerks at work. The couple said they watch their money closely. But many don't, according to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. Of 122 calls that came in during 2010, according to Help Line Director Brian Kongsvik, about 30 percent were unemployed, disabled or receiving government assistance for something else. More than four of five were having problems paying basic household bills. "We've had people call looking for assistance that cite these places as their primary gambling problem," Kongsvik said. "The owners of these places compare them to the McDonald's Monopoly game. In 20 years of operation we've never had anyone call us because they were addicted to the McDonald's Monopoly game." / December 13, 2011

Residents Hold Anti-Casino Demonstration in Miami Beach

FL - Some residents who are against casinos in Florida will demonstrate Tuesday evening to send a message local officials that casinos are not welcome in Miami Beach. The demonstration will be held at the Miami Beach Convention Center's Hall. It will be held prior to a gambling forum scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the same place. / Dec 13, 2011

* * * Seminoles Continue to Dispute Bondi's Laundering Comment

FL - Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman James Billie continued on Wednesday the tribe's criticism of Attorney General Pam Bondi for linking the Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa to money laundering in a media conference to oppose the gaming bill before the state Legislature. "In Hillsborough County, many of the last drug-trafficking cases that they made, the money was laundered through the casino,'' she said on Dec. 8. "So that is a prime way to launder money in illegal drug cases." Read more of Billie's comments below: / December 14, 2011

Seminoles need hotel to go with their Hard Rock ambition

FL - The casino's 250-room hotel is maxed out nearly every night, either through paying customers or gamblers given the rooms for free. A host of developers, nearby landowners and hoteliers have tried to capitalize on the demand, either by planning their own hotels or offering to build hotels on the Seminoles' behalf. Hillsborough County. County tourism officials years ago determined they couldn't require the tribe to collect hotel "bed taxes" to benefit local tourism. How much money runs through the Hard Rock has been water-cooler gossip for years. Hillsborough County can only hope the casino's growth will mean more gamblers will tear themselves away from the black-jack tables to visit off-site restaurants and shops. That may be at odds with the casino's strategy of keeping people on-site, though. The county likely will lose more bed taxes if the casino goes ahead with its plan to build a 22-story hotel. / December 12, 2011

Senate report: Ban or regulate internet sweepstakes cafes

FL - Lawmakers need to make a decision to either ban or regulate Internet sweepstakes cafes, or storefront casinos, an interim report... From the Senate Regulated Industries Committee released this week states. "Based upon the findings in this report, Senate professional staff recommends that the Legislature not maintain the status quo. Local governments are passing inconsistent ordinances and law enforcement is similarly handling these businesses differently across the state," the report states. The law was written in 1971, before the prevalence of electronic devices and the Internet. There is no license required to operate the cafes, but those offering total prize packages of $5,000 or more are required to register with Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. Bondi last week to decry a proposed casino resorts bill, as well as the Internet sweepstakes cafes. Sen. Miguel Diaz De la Portilla, R-Miami, has filed SB 380 to regulate the cafes, and Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, is sponsoring HB 3, to ban them altogether. / 12/15/2011

* * * Sheriffs weigh in and oppose casino gambling proposal

FL - The Florida Sheriff's Association, a long-time opponent of expanded gambling, today officially announced its opposition to the proposal to bring destination resort casinos to Miami Dade and Broward. Today, The Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) announces its opposition to the expansion of all forms of gambling in our state, and in particular opposes casino-style gambling due to the proven likelihood of increased criminal activity, higher demands on law enforcement resources and detrimental impacts on society. National studies have demonstrated that casino-style gambling creates additional crime. The increase in crime is often attributed to the influx of tourists and the common practice of promoting free alcohol or drink specials to gamblers. In addition, the high wages and winnings at stake attract criminals committing burglary, larceny, and auto thefts - all of which generally are higher around casino areas. In some cases these crimes are being committed by compulsive gamblers who need to feed their addiction. Criminals prey on tourists and other individuals who have won large amounts of cash. Organized crime often takes root to use casinos to engage in money laundering, loan sharking, robberies and prostitution. / December 16, 2011

Sheriff's office, Seminoles dispute Bondi casino 'money laundering' claim

FL - But Bondi says that's what she was told, and her office issued this statement Wednesday: "At a charitable event on Nov. 12, I spoke with a deputy from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office regarding the gambling issue. I was absolutely told that in many of the last drug trafficking cases that they made, the money was laundered at the casino." "As long as I have been (Seminole) Chairman, since way back in 1979, and during the years I was out of office, I have never seen any information, whatsoever, come across my desk about money laundering," Billie wrote. "In all these years the Seminole Tribe has conducted Gaming, since 1979, no audit has ever found any fraud, theft, embezzlement or large variances of any kind." / December 15th, 2011

SoFla football and hockey teams see casinos as a potential partner

FL - The National Hockey League team has taken several Las Vegas casino operators on tours of the Sunrise property and discussed the possibility of building a destination resort casino... / December 15, 2011

State gambling regulators fending off challenges with two barrels

FL - Florida's gambling regulators are fending off legal challenges on two fronts today, both because oftheir decision to issue new pari-mutuel permits -- one to a barrel-racing track in North Florida and another to a summer Jai Alai permit in Miami. The owners of the Mardi Gras Casino filed suit against the state... For issuing a summer jai alai permit to the owners of Magic City Casino arguing that the never-used loophole written into state law in 1992 is unconstitutional. / 12-12-2011

Stuart man, 78, charged with fraud in $7 million Ponzi scheme

FL - A Stuart man is facing fraud charges after being accused of swindling two dozen people in a $7 million Ponzi scheme regarding the sale of airplane parts, Roger Green, 78, of Stuart, and Victor Brown, 55, of Hollywood, are charged... Green and Brown are accused of spending the money on personal items such as gambling and expensive cars, the release states. / December 16, 2011

Support builds to revamp Miami Beach Convention Center

FL - Facing the prospect of giant casino resorts competing with or becoming a part of the beachside tourism industry, Miami Beach commissioners are reaffirming their opposition to gambling and pressing ahead with plans to renovate the Miami Beach Convention Center. And they apparently have an ally in Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Whatever plan emerges, he said, the public will have a say. "It will be a local referendum so residents can decide for themselves whether the project" is worth doing, he added. / 12-14-11

Troopers: Riverview man heads to casino after killing one, injuring two in crash

FL - A 28-year-old man who troopers said caused a crash that killed one driver and sent two others to the hospital was arrested at the Hard Rock Casino late Sunday after fleeing the scene. A 2000 Honda CRV driven by Linda Diane Fessell, 64, Fessel died at the scene. After searching for several hours, Tippins was located at the Hard Rock Casino, where troopers said he went directly after the crash. / Dec 12, 2011

Vegas casino developer pens letter to FL Attorney General

FL - "I believe that authorizing mega-casinos would take our state in a fundamentally wrong direction. We need less gambling in our state, not more, she (Bondi) said." Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott has repeated dismissed the crime criticism. / Dec 13, 2011

Where are South Florida's hottest spots for new casinos?

FL - "They're dangling that green carrot," said Nicki Grossman... President of the Greater Fort Lauderdale... Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Boy, you can't miss the smell of that money. It's important, and that's why everybody is coveting the opportunity to host that casino facility.'' Here's a list of the potential sites under study, and the state of play on each:,0,3389398.story / December 15, 2011