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Chamber forum on 'destination gaming' underscores rifts in debate

At a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce forum that opponents blasted as one-sided, proponents of "destination resort" casinos laid out their rationale for either supporting or opposing the legislation.

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, one of the sponsors of the measure, blasted business leaders in the opposition for fighting new competition, noting Walt Disney World eclipsed smaller attractions as it transformed Florida tourism in the 1970s.

“It blows my mind that a business group would say competition is a bad thing,” said Bogdanoff, a Republican representing Fort Lauderdale, told an audience of business executives Monday morning. “We are a free-market country.”

Her comments at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce forum came against a backdrop of more opposition from the hospitality industry to allowing large casino resorts in Florida.

The Florida Retail Federation joined the state hotel and restaurant association in opposing the plan, along with the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Disney and Orlando’s theme-park industry are seen as a driving force behind the opposition in Tallahassee, setting up a battle between Florida’s top tourism draw and the global casino industry.

“For Florida retailers, the short-term employment gains of expanding casino gambling would not be worth the long-term damage we might inflict on Florida’s family-friendly brand,” Scott McAllister, president of the retail group, said in a statement issued Monday morning. Story here.