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Legislators predict this is the year for 'casino' lightning in Florida

The sponsor of the bill to bring resort casinos to South Florida believes that the arrival of gambling giant Genting, the state’s dismal economy and a rush of casino cash give legislators a chance to catch “lightning in a bottle” and pass the long-sought legislation this year.

“There is an appetite now to catch these destination resorts and potentially inject $5 billion to $6 billion into the local economy – and that trickles up to the state,’’ said Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami. “If we weren’t in double-digit unemployment and a receding economy, I don’t think there would be much appetite for this bill but, in this environment, it’s almost an obligation to discuss it.”

In the next two weeks, Fresen and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, will unveil their proposed legislation to allow Genting Malaysia Berhad and its competitors to bid on three licenses to bring resort-style casinos to South Florida.

The proposals will also consolidate the regulation of the existing gambling industry under a single gaming commission and regulate or outlaw so-called internet cafes that have exploited a loophole in state law to open storefront casinos, the legislators said.

“This is the year it can happen,’’ said Bogdanoff, who has opposed expanded gambling most of her legislative career. She believes “the time has come” for the state to pave the way for private sector competition to the Seminole Tribe, which now has a monopoly on casino games in Florida. To bring casinos to Florida, lawmakers must pass a bill and the governor must sign it. More here.