After months of seeking a sponsor in the House, Sen. Dennis Jones has found Miami Rep. Erik Fresen, and has lined up Broward state Sen. Maria Sachs, a Democrat, in the Senate to work with him on his 'Destination Resorts' casino bill pushed by the Las Vegas Sands and other large casinos. They are seeking a major casino presence in Florida -- mainly Miami Beach. The bill offers the option to five casino regions in the state and requires an up front commitment from bidders of $50 million, which would be refundable. Here's the Senate press release:
“Our estimates show that these Destination Resorts will draw over 5 million new out of state visitors annually to Florida visiting the shops and restaurants in the resorts, while also visiting the restaurants, retail and attractions in the surrounding local community,” said Senator Dennis L. Jones.
“That is all money that will go into Florida's economy and could help stimulate local businesses,” Jones added. “This is my motivation behind filing this bill and why I hope my fellow lawmakers will join me in bringing Destination Resorts and all its benefits and jobs to Florida.”
“The possibility of bringing Destination Resorts to Florida includes a host of economic benefits,” said Senator Maria Sachs. “These benefits will manifest themselves in new jobs for our construction industry, tourism, beaches, hospitality, and trades. This new energy and excitement will bring us back to the days when Florida was a mecca for top-notch entertainment and a destination in itself.”
Among other things, the Jones/Sachs Destination Resorts/Trade Shows Legislation, would:
- Authorize one Destination Resort in each the following five districts designated across the state. To be eligible, a county would have to pass a local referendum before a Destination Resort could be located there. The proposed five districts in the Senate proposal would be as follows:
- District 1: Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Jackson, Washington, Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin, Liberty, Gadsden, Leon, Wakulla, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Taylor, Lafayette, Suwannee, Columbia, Baker, Union, Bradford, Alachua, Gilchrist, Dixie, and Levy Counties
- District 2: Nassau, Duval, Clay, Putnam, St. Johns, Flagler, Marion. Volusia, Lake, Seminole, Orange, Polk, and Osceola Counties
- District 3: Citrus, Sumter, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Hardee, DeSoto, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Monroe, Highlands, Okeechobee, Glades, and Hendry Counties
- District 4: Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach Counties
- District 5: Broward and Miami Dade Counties.
Determine location of the Resorts through a comprehensive bidding process, which will consist of a $50 Million refundable licensing fee (refunded if the bidder is not selected to receive a license) and a $1 Million non-refundable application fee. The proposal would have to show the applicant locations will:
- Maximize revenue to the state
- Generate tourism including meeting and convention travelers
- Build a minimum of 500,000 square feet of meeting and convention space
- Build a minimum of 1,000 hotel rooms
- Create jobs
- Commit that no more than 10% of the resort’s total square footage will consist of the casino gaming area.
- Maintain high standards of corporate social responsibility
- Establish a tax rate that would be based on capital investment of the licensee. Capital investment would be defined as the cumulative cost for developing the project and includes land purchase, application and licensing fees, property build out, permitting fees, environmental remediation costs, necessary studies including but not limited to economic analysis, environmental analysis, and traffic analysis. The proposed tax rate scale in the Senate legislation:
- $2,000,000,000 and above 10%
- $1,000,000,000- $1,999,999 15%
- Less than $1,000,000,000 20%
Create a seven-member Destination Resort Gaming Commission to properly regulate casino gaming, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. The Governor would be required to appoint at least one commissioner from each designated district.
“I am proud of this legislation that stemmed from hours of testimony and research on a concept that has never been proposed in Florida. The model that I hope to bring to Florida with this legislation is trade show centered by design and would allow for a minimum amount of square footage dedicated for gaming to maximize capital,” concluded Jones. “I look forward to working with Senator Sachs and other fellow Senators on this proposal and look forward to seeing this good bill cement Florida’s future as a leading destination for trade shows, conventions and tourists from around the world.”