In a move designed to shift Florida’s gambling focus, two new bills to be filed Wednesday would award exclusive full-casino licenses to three massive “destination resorts” and leave the struggling pari-mutuel industry to wither.
The goal of the proposals by Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, “is to reduce gaming in the state and have the kind of gaming that is actually going to produce revenue,’’ Bogdanoff said.
That would mean no equal treatment for South Florida’s eight racinos, which would pay higher tax rates than the new casinos and be allowed to operate only pari-mutuel and slot machines. It would mean no more monopoly for the Seminole Tribe, which would lose its exclusive right to operate blackjack, baccarat and other table games at their seven Florida casinos and would stop making annual payments to the state.
Instead, the bill would allow full Las Vegas-style games at three locations in South Florida in exchange for a $2 billion investment each in high-end “destination resorts.” Applicants would pay $50 million for the right to compete for the licenses and would be judged on their ability to draw tourists from Latin America, Asia, Europe and across the U.S., Bogdanoff said.
“Florida is considered the fourth largest gambling state in the nation, but it has let the industry drive policy decisions and that has produced the worst kind of gaming,’’ she said Tuesday. “To me, no kind of gaming is good, but we, as policymakers, have to decide, do we want gaming with five-star hotels or Internet cafes in strip malls?”
To that end, the authors have carefully cleansed the bill of any emphasis on gambling. The 142-page overhaul of state gambling regulations never uses the word “casino” but instead refers to the facilities as “limited gaming” and calls the legislation the “Destination Resort Act.” Story here.
Here are some of the major components of the 142-page bill, which would be taken up when the Legislature holds its two-month session beginning in January: Download Fresen Bogdanoff bill