Latest News
9/1/11 TO 9/10/11

'Destination' casinos could hinge on court case

FL - Casino operators across the country are waiting on a key court ruling that could determine how hard it will be to crack the Florida market, even as lawmakers prepare to return to Tallahassee to ponder how much gaming should be allowed in the Sunshine State. Destination casinos, online poker and new lottery games could all be on the table. Persuading squeamish lawmakers to expand gaming is one hurdle. But a bigger one is a court case heard by a state appeals court Wednesday over whether the Legislature can authorize gaming centers wherever it wants or whether a constitutional amendment is required. The state's ability to expand gaming has long been controversial. The DCA case would be the first big ruling to clarify whether it's the Legislature or Constitution that authorizes or bans new gaming operations in Florida. Big casino operators like Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and Genting Malaysia Berhad are pushing lawmakers to open the Florida market to "destination" casinos. In the House, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, has been working on a sweeping gaming bill that would limit destination casinos to South Florida and set up a gaming commission to regulate the industry. Fresen could not be reached for comment Friday, but Iarossi said several of the big casino companies are also working on regulation language should a destination bill pass. / September 09, 2011

9 Investigates: Strip Mall Casinos' Location Data

FL - With modest homes, Apopka's 32703 zip code typifies the trend that Spencer uncovered in neighborhoods where strip mall casinos are setting up. According to Spencer's research, the majority have below-average incomes. "The rich already know that you're not going to win on the slots. But the poor don't," said Cotterman. "They think they're gonna get a lot of money." Earlier this year, WFTV discovered some state welfare recipients were using their cash benefits in strip mall casinos. / August 30, 2011

Appeals court hears arguments on Hialeah slot machines

FL - In a case with potentially statewide implications, an appeals court heard arguments Wednesday in a Miami-Dade County industry fight about whether the Hialeah race track should be able to offer slot machines. Miami Jai-Alai and Calder Casino & Race Course contend that a 2004 constitutional amendment, which paved the way for slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, does not apply to Hialeah Park. Lawmakers approved a measure in 2010 that allowed Hialeah to add slots. Calder and Miami Jai-Alai asked the 1st District Court of Appeal to overturn a Leon County judge's ruling last year that upheld the law. But Joel Perwin, an attorney for the parent company of Miami Jai-Alai, said voters thought they were approving a narrow amendment that only would allow slot machines in two counties. He said voters earlier had rejected three constitutional amendments aimed at expanded gambling. / 07 September 2011

Appeals court urged to allow slots statewide

FL - A former state Supreme Court justice representing Hialeah's race track urged an appellate court last week to rule that lawmakers can allow slot machines anywhere in Florida. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal also heard two opposing arguments. One is that a state constitutional amendment limits slots to seven pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, but lawmakers are free to permit others in Florida's remaining 65 counties. The second is that slots are prohibited everywhere in Florida except at the seven South Florida horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons. Lawyers on both sides said the case may wind up in the Florida Supreme Court, particularly if the appellate judges rule the 2010 law violates the slots amendment. / September 11, 2011

City: State will deal with Internet sweepstakes cafes

FL - The Ocala City Council has rejected an ordinance to limit Internet sweepstakes cafes in Ocala, leaving it, instead, to the state. State Rep. Dennis Baxley is co-sponsoring a bill to eliminate them. State lawmakers may have the final word, though. A bill being proposed for the next legislative session would "clarify" the law and leave no doubt that this is gambling.

Clarity, please

FL - With more than 1,000 Internet cafes -- and growing -- now operating statewide and generating an estimated $1 billion in annual revenues -- and growing -- it is time for the Florida Legislature to bring legal clarity to these establishments that proponents call "sweepstakes cafes" and opponents call "strip mall casinos." Opponents justifiably argue if it looks like gambling and feels like gambling, then it must be gambling. Adam Putnam, commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which regulates sweepstakes contests, says "clarification is needed" because "ambiguity in the law itself ... is unhealthy regardless of who the impacted parties are." Attorney General Pam Bondi, meanwhile, recently issued an opinion declaring that the machines "constitute illegal slot machines or devices." Fifth Circuit Assistant State Attorney Mark Simpson... "They have driven a Mack truck through a needle-sized loophole. ... If the Legislature wants gambling on every street corner, then, by God, they are doing a good job by doing nothing." / Friday, September 9, 2011

Clermont Internet cafe robbed at gunpoint

FL - Lake County deputy sheriffs are looking for a masked gunman who robbed a Clermont Internet cafe Sunday morning, officials said. A Casselberry man was charged in connection with the crime that reignited debate about the controversial casino-style businesses that opponents say are gambling houses. / September 04, 2011

Deputies Investigate Strip Mall Casino Robbery

FL - The Lake County Sheriff's Office launched a search Sunday afternoon for a man who robbed a strip mall casino at gunpoint. "If they are using these places to gamble and make it as a hot spot for crime, / September 5, 2011

Ex-Aventura condo manager charged with grand theft

FL - More than a year after a complaint was filed with authorities that an Aventura condominium association manager had embezzled about half a million dollars from the association, the State Attorney's Office has issued an arrest warrant for the confessed suspect, Rodriguez e-mailed residents, apologizing and blaming her actions on a gambling addiction. / 09.02.11

Fla. appeal court holding slot machine hearing

FL - A circuit judge's ruling saying that lawmakers can allow slot machines anywhere in Florida is being appealed. If the ruling stands it could open the door to casino resorts in Florida. / 09.07.11

Florida's Gambling Future Tied To Future Supreme Court Ruling

GL - No state, however, has received more attention in the lobbying efforts (Las Vegas gaming) than Florida. Las Vegas Sands has been at the forefront of the lobbying efforts to expand gambling in Florida to include destination casino resorts. When Governor Rick Scott won the election, he was seen soon after on a private jet that belonged to LVS CEO Sheldon Adelson. The ruling is expected to decide whether or not the Legislature has the right to authorize casino resorts without the input of the public. / September 11, 2011

Genting Connected to Islamic Extremists?

FL - A shady, but well-heeled Asian casino gambling giant swoops into town, buys an outdated office facility and valuable underlying real estate from the Miami Herald and launches a multi-million dollar campaign to approve non-Indian casino gambling in Florida and put a license on the former Miami Herald tract. The Miami Herald suspends their normally skeptical eye, conducts no due-diligence on their new Chinese friends from Malaysia and their newspaper becomes a public relations machine for a client they don't even really know. Genting refuses to disclose the names of "Community Leaders" - including elected officials - who were flown to South East Asia in a private luxury jet and wined and dined at 5-Star resorts reserved for high-rollers in the Asian gaming world. Genting has retained a team of slick lobbyists including Jonathan Kilman, Kilman's partner, Chris Kise, is under investigation for erasing email records generated during Governor Rick Scott's Inauguration. Expect that Genting, their lobbyists, and other retainers, will lavish the Republican Party of Florida and other selected party redistricting vehicles with millions of dollars. They'll even buy Governor Rick Scott a golden toilet seat for the Governors mansion is he wants! Genting made millions of dollars as the money-men behind two controversial Indian Casino gaming developments in the Eastern United States. In both cases, Genting operations were directed by G. Michael Brown, a former New Jersey Attorney General who was later charged with embezzlement and cocaine use in the Seneca Tribal Court. Genting was the financier of the Seneca Niagara Casino... Genting charged the tribe an exorbitant 28 percent interest rate, potentially in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulations under the Bureau of Indian Affairs.& Genting also stayed in the deal for almost 15 years when they were legally limited to five. ... All of this became known to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, which held hearings and launched an investigation into corruption in the Indian gaming industry in the United States. But what the Senate Committee found out about Genting was even more disturbing: an apparent pattern of multi-million dollar payments to Islamic extremist organizations in Malaysia who most definitely are not friends of the United States of America. U.S. Senate Special Committee records regarding Genting and their financing of multiple Islamic-based organizations in Malaysia are classified. Some U.S. Senator needs to launch an investigation to determine whether Genting has relationships that would make their holding a casino license in Miami (a money machine) inappropriate. U.S. Senate staff investigators should get a firm understanding of Genting's questionable relationships in Malaysia and China. ... Investigators had reason to be skeptical when photos of K.T. Lim and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il surfaced. The Senate investigators also obtained photos of Lim socializing with at least two Islamic figures wanted by the United States for terrorist activities. Senate investigators were also interested in K.T. Lim's relationship with Stanley Ho, the Asian casino magnate who has been identified as a member of the Chinese Triad, the Chinese crime organization, by the U.S. Justice Department and by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Ho has been denied a casino license in every jurisdiction except in Macau and North Korea. Genting has refused to address their business dealings with Ho and his company Shun Tak Holdings Ltd. While the Miami Herald is telling us that Genting boss K.T. Lim is a brilliant businessman, he could be one of the largest funders of Islamic terrorist activity in Asia. Instead of giving press conferences to the Miami Herald, perhaps K.T. should be interrogated under subpoena by U.S. Senate lawyers. The Miami-Dade politicians who suck up Genting's food, drink and accommodations and support Genting's development will jump off of them like rats when they learn where a substantial portion of Genting's profits in Florida may be going. Just because Genting has a lot of money doesn't mean that they are suitable to operate casinos in the United States based on their associations and business practices. Neither Governor Rick Scott, nor Senate President Mike Haridopolos will agree to casino gaming without a local county referendum. ... Nothing short of full disclosure of all the finances and holdings of Genting should be required under Florida casino regulation. If they deny ties to radical Islam only full disclosure will verify this claim, a protection the public requires. New Jersey Casino Control law is considered the toughest in the country and is the model for casino regulation in the rest of the country. Nevada's regulations are similar, but the process in that small state is "more political." Florida's casino regulation must not and cannot be lax. We need to know far, far more about Genting and their friends before they get a casino license in Florida. ... / 8 Sep 2011

Genting Group, seeking Miami casino, flies leaders to Asia

FL - Genting Group, the Malaysian corporate giant planning to bring a $3 billion-plus resort and casino to downtown Miami's waterfront, recently flew a group of local leaders to Southeast Asia in what one official described as a whirlwind tour of the company's resorts. Genting has hired Florida attorney Jonathan Kilman to lobby for the company's gaming license. Kilman... Served as legal counsel to former Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign... The casino would occupy 10% or less of that space, he said -- which could mean up to 800,000 square feet for the casino. Genting announced it had bought the 13.9-acre Miami Herald site for $236 million from the newspaper's California parent, The McClatchy Co. Mr. Lowell, who also is senior managing director of Flagler Real Estate Services in Coral Gables, said the Genting deal was the largest cash purchase in memory in Miami real estate. / Sept 1, 2011

Hialeah casino's big ace: Jobs

FL - When Miami-Dade voters approved slots in 2008, Brunetti applied for a racing permit -- a requisite before obtaining a slot license. There have been two seasons of quarterhorse racing, a product generally regarded as inferior to thoroughbreds, but enough to clear the state's bar. And now they're starting on the casino, with Brunetti lining up $150 million for the first phase. It includes 1,250 slots and a 30-table poker room. / September 10, 2011

In Miami, Long and Bitter Feud With Mayor Pushes Police Chief Close to Dismissal

FL - The feud between the mayor and police chief has been bitter and public. Last fall, the mayor, Tomas P. Regalado, accused the Police Department of conducting surveillance on him. He said he felt "very threatened" after noticing a suspicious car outside his home. Chief Exposito later accused the mayor of improperly trying to curtail a covert police investigation into illegal gambling. The fate of the chief now apparently rests with the Miami City Commission. Under the City Charter, the chief has one week to ask the commission to evaluate the city manager's decision. / September 6, 2011

Internet Cafe Welcomes State Regulation as Governor Weighs In

FL - A non-profit that operates Internet cafes that some say front as gambling operations contributed $25,000 to Gov. Rick Scott's inauguration events, First Coast News has learned. / Sep 1, 2011

Internet cafe crackdown renews legal debate

FL - Scores of casino-style "Internet cafes" in Central Florida are thriving in a gray area of state law, irritating some and entertaining others. But when a Central Florida sheriff recently captured headlines after shutting one down and declaring all of them clearly illegal, it reignited a debate about these so-called "strip-mall casinos." Opponents say these operations are simply illegal gambling houses that attract crime and other problems and have nothing to do with sweepstakes. The industry's bottomless coffers, formidable defense attorneys and a technicality in state law are huge roadblocks for prosecutors with restricted resources, Simpson said. Some lawmakers have even got into the business. State Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, opened an Internet cafe last year in Palm Harbor. State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, is part-owner of a sports club that houses one. State Rep. Scott Plankon, R-Longwood, is proposing to abolish all simulated-gambling machines with his House bill, "The Internet cafes tend to open up in lower socioeconomic areas and prey on those who are already economically disadvantaged in a way that's unfair and creates hardship in these communities," said Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards, / By Arelis R. Hernandez / August 31, 2011

Melbourne police bust gambling operation

FL - The investigation began several months ago and resulted in charges that included drug possession and gambling. / Sep. 2, 2011

Miami police chief fights to stop firing

FL - The move came months after Exposito wrote federal officials alleging that Mayor Regalado attempted to meddle in a video-gaming raid, / Sep 07, 2011

Miami police chief suspended

FL - He has been targeted by the mayor's office... When he wrote federal law enforcement to allege that Miami Mayor... Regalado interfered with an October police raid involving video-gaming machines, / Sep 06, 2011

Miami's Mayor, Police Chief Can't Get Along

FL - Then the pair clashed over an ordinance supported by the mayor that legalized devices that resembled slot machines in cafes and bodegas. Mr. Exposito opposed the measure, arguing it opened the way to illegal gambling. Eleven days after it passed, in October 2010, Miami police raided numerous businesses and seized more than 400 machines. The mayor and chief disagree on whether those machines permit illegal gambling. / SEPTEMBER 6, 2011

Owner of Herald property buys more land

FL - An affiliate of the Genting Genting in the past month has assembled nearly two blocks west of Biscayne Boulevard within walking distance of the Herald property, according to the Daily Business Review. The group paid $29.4 million for a total of 3.6 acres of mostly vacant land, / 09.01.11

Pinellas cafe manager sues sheriff over closure

FL - The operator of one of the Internet sweepstakes cafes shuttered by Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats in July has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the sheriff and two detectives of violating her constitutional free speech and search and seizure rights. Proponents of the Internet cafes say they are not gambling establishments and the computers are not slot machines, though the games offered on them look like Las Vegas-style video slots. / September 11, 2011

Q&A: Internet Cafes

FL - Q: How does the Internet cafe business work? A: Businesses sell Internet time or phone cards and offer sweepstakes entries that can be used on computer software that simulates casino-style games of chance. / August 31, 2011

Ruling that slot machines can be anywhere in Florida reaches appellate court

FL - A circuit judge's ruling saying that lawmakers can allow slot machines anywhere in Florida is being appealed. If the ruling stands it could open the door to casino resorts in Florida. horse and dog tracks filed the suit... / September 7, 2011

Sally Heyman Wants Control Over Miami Herald Headquarters Casino Plan

FL - A Malaysian gambling conglomerate's plans to convert the Miami Herald headquarters and surrounding properties into a luxury resort casino has prompted one county commissioner to seek more control over redevelopment... Last month, the Daily Business Review reported that Genting also purchased 3.6 acres of mostly vacant land west of Biscayne Boulevard in the Omni District, which is also home to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. ... / Sep. 8 2011

Seminole Hard Rock unveils details of casino expansion

FL - Even more slot machines and table games are on the way at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Plans include adding 32,000 square feet of gaming space, which should make the Seminole Hard Rock one of the nation's biggest casinos by square footage. The casino will have 220,000 square feet of gaming space after the project -- the size of a Walmart Supercenter. It is adding 750 slots, which will bring the total to 4,926, and 12 table games, which will amount to 105 table games after the expansion. / September 01, 2011

State Senate Candidate Calls for Abolishing Internet Cafes

FL - Central Florida businessman Ron Rushing pledged on Wednesday to make abolishing Internet cafes one of his chief priorities if elected. There was a deadly shooting at the Seminole County Internet cafe, and this past week the Clermont Internet Cafe was robbed at gunpoint by a masked gunman. / September 8, 2011

Suspect Accused of Stealing $500,000

FL - Investigators with the State Attorney's Office said James Jackson Jr. took $500,000 from 70-year-old Judith Grimes after promising to use the money for a private investment program. During the next four months, he spent more than $471,000 from the account on items, including food, travel, home furnishings and expenses at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino, as well as payments to other suspected investors. / September 8, 2011

Time to go

FL - By suspending the head of Miami's police department, City Manager Johnny Martinez has pressed the gas pedal on Chief Miguel Exposito's slow-motion exit as the city's top cop. Mayor Tomas Regalado must bear his share of the responsibility. His feud with Mr. Exposito started soon after the chief was appointed to the position, a sop to the police union, which supported Mr. Regalado's election. When the chief started cracking down like gangbusters on maquinita parlors, saying the video machines constituted illegal gambling, he stepped on the mayor's toes. The mayor stomped back, and the fight was on. Unfortunately, state law is vague on the legality of maquinitas. / 09.06.11

With Dania Jai-Alai plans, is casino market oversaturated?

FL - And that's exactly what Dania Jai-Alai plans to do when it opens its casino in 2013. Its plans call for 1,800 slot machines, a cabana club, a two-building hotel, retail shops, restaurants, bars, lounges, poker rooms and a 60-slip marina. But with four gambling venues already in the southern section of the county, and two others in Pompano Beach and Coconut Creek, is the area oversaturated? / September 03, 2011

With Pill Mills and "Internet Cafes" in Sight, Palm Coast Prepares Stricter Regulations

FL - The matter is less clear regarding gambling halls--halls whose owners and operators insist on calling by any name but gambling. The state still doesn't define them as gambling, but leaves enough room for interpretation. The Attorney General leaves it to local law enforcement to decide how to handle them. Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming doesn't want to raid them for now, pending more uniform regulations from the state. A bill has been filed again in the Florida House of Representatives to define Internet cafes (or adult arcades) as slot-machine gambling, and regulate or restrict them as such. That same bill was introduced last year and failed. "It would be senseless for us," Marc Carman, the sheriff's office's Palm Coast captain, "to go out there and use our resources to try and close them down. Our state attorney, their position right now is they're not going to do anything until they get clear-cut guidance from the attorney general, so they're not going to prosecute and we're not going to get a conviction. We're just going to be spinning our wheels and we're going to be wasting time and taxpayers' money." / August 30, 2011