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Casinos on the 2014 ballot? Political committee lays the groundwork

After failing to persuade the Florida Legislature to pass a bill to open South Florida to mega resort casinos, gambling interests have taken the first steps to bring the issue directly to voters in 2014.

A political committee under the name of “New Jobs and Revenues for Florida” was created April 10 with the purpose of promoting a “statewide constitutional initiative re gaming.” The committee chairman is Tallahassee lawyer and lobbyist John French and its treasurer is political committee consultant and accountant Nancy Watkins of Tampa. Download New Jobs and Revenues for Florida Committee

The only group so far that has expressed an interest in conducting a petition drive to bypass lawmakers and go directly to voters is the Genting Group, the Malaysian-based conglomerate that has kept a low profile since a House committee knocked its chances off the legislative agenda in mid-session.  

Spokesmen for Genting said they were not aware of the initiative and the company’s top officials could not be reached for comment but the company has been the only entity to suggest a desire to bring the issue to voters.

The petition process requires that the organization get petitions signed by eight percent of the voters in the last presidential election to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot. The proposal must then be approved by 60 percent of the voters.

That’s a heavy lift, especially since statewide polls showed that while support was high for the casino measure in South Florida, there was less than 60 percent support in every other region of the state. Meanwhile, voters have blocked attempts to authorize casino gambling three other times when casino initiatives were on the ballot in 1978, 1986 and in 1994.

The pari-mutuel industry won approval to bring slot machines to eight race tracks, dog tracks and jai alai frontons only after telling voters the new gambling venues would be limited to Miami Dade and Broward.

No Casinos, the anti-gambling group backed by Disney and Miami auto magnate Norman Braman, is ready to oppose the initiative campaign, said John Sowinski, director of the group.

“Our sense is that legislators weren’t fooled by the slick sales pitch and Florida voters won’t be fooled by it either,’’ he said. “If Genting, or whoever this committee is, filed an amendment to expanding gambling in Florida, we will put together a committee to oppose it and our sense is it will be a similar outcome.”

Genting has spent more than $500 million on real estate, including purchase of The Miami Herald building, in its quest to build a $3.8 billion bay front resort. Absent the casino approval, it said last month that it will move forward with a dramatically scaled down mixed-use plan for its Resorts World Miami.


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The difference with a vote today is there is already casino gambling in Florida now. It's just limited to benefiting the Seminole Tribe and not Florida taxpayers. It's also virtually unregulated and citizens of Florida are being ripped off by these strip mall slot parlors. If Florida voters had approved casino gambling years ago, Biloxi and other places that suck money out of Florida never would have got off the ground. No other place in the country could have offered the combination of beaches, entertainment and casino gambling that Florida could. Vegas would probably still be a honkytonk gambling town like it was in 1978 if gambling had been approved in Florida back then.


Who are the Politian's kidding? If it's gambling, building a road or bridge, it's who gets their palms greased and that is the way the vote goes.
pol•i•ti•cian (p l-t sh n)

Sally McDermitt

Braman, Arison and No Casinos should be investigated. Why is it ok for them to pay into ECOs secretly, come out opposing pro-casino and yet have a problem that the other side does the same? Why is Braman such a bully? He is a puppet master for the inner politcos - if he doesn't like you, then he wants you replaced. Who the hell does he think he is convincing the populous with smoke and mirrors because he can use his own funds to do so? He is an old man, scoundrel, and should be ignored. In fact, he should move to Palm Beach, he no longer fits into the Miami, Miami Beach life-style. Arison is another one - look how he handled the Concordia disaster! That should say enough about his character; what did he do, HIDE from the media for over a week. Compensation for the passengers, a free cruise! pathetic! The both of them create fronts in the form of ECO and put people up as front-men - and no one questions that! why not i ask. Both Braman and Arison should be investigated for election fraud and manipulation. Both low-life, greedy, manipulative scoundrels!

Kathleen Smith

I hope they put it on the ballot! We need the jobs and let the people decide, not the politicians!

Christian Berke

Genting has made a great investment in South Florida - and we blew it. Now we have another shot to get it done! Lets take advantage of this opportunity and get those jobs- construction, direct, indirect. We ALL benefit!

John Balzer

Why does it require an "entity" to persuade voters when it is the voters themselves on this initiative? The people are truly angry that big business cheated the community out of a fantastic new construct that could of brought Miami-Dade county out of the fiscal abyss a year early. Gambling is taking place all over Florida. Denying a new wealth generator to Florida on the grounds of "gambling" was specious from the start. The sooner we get progress going, the faster we will recover.

Dora Nash

There are casinos all over Florida. The Isle casino in Pompano, the Seminole casinos all over Florida, the Marti Gras casino in Hollywood, the Gulfstream, the Magic City, need I go on? No Casinos is a joke. When they try to deny a particular new start-up like Genting, you better look out for their real intentions which are to support some greedy big business that fears competition and shafts the people for themselves.

Angelina Fox

I hope the "New Jobs and Revenues for Florida" committee will succeed in gathering the necessary petition signatures to put the casino decision on the ballot and out of the hands of corrupt politicians, out of Norman Braman's influence and out of the job-killing hands of the members of the Dade Heritage Trust. How much influence do outside entities like Walt Disney World's No Casino Group and the Seminole casinos have in stopping progress in Miami? How far will they go in order to kill competition for gaming and tourism dollars?

Robert Walker

Why do we have to wait so long to get this project going? Is it corrupt politicians? Is it greedy big businesses that fear competition? How about all of the above. Boycott Disney, the Seminoles, and fire all the politicians that stalled the project. We need the jobs and the economic jump start now.

Susan Spector

I heard that Donald Trump bought the Doral and that it is he putting huge amounts of money into getting new gambling laws that more fairly regulate casinos beyond the Seminole rip-off. Trump already has a big Florida footprint and a proven track record. We certainly need the jobs and the forward progress.

Manny Rodriquez

It is taking too long to bring vitality back to our community. There are so many naysayers trying to block the economic recovery for their own greedy self-interests. Take the "Preservationists" who have tried to declare the ugly HERALD BUILDING as historic. It is a blantant and shameless effort to stop the resort project. Why doesn't the Herald do an investigation on who paid off who to put forward that sillyness. The longer blocking efforts like that continue the longer it will take to get the jobs we need.

Maria Gomez

The Genting Group has been a good neighbor in Miami and Florida. Their Norwegian Cruise Lines provides thousands of jobs out of the Port Of Miami. Then, they came in and spent millions buying up property to build a futuristic resort and what did the politicians do? They took the money and did nothing! Its time for those crooked legislators to take the heat so they don't do it again to Trump. We need the jobs and the state surely needs the money, not the despicable politicians.

Selma Gomez

Casinos are already prevalent in South Florida. Its time we bring in the mega casinos and actually have some with class rather then the crappy Indian Casinos- where no one ever wins. I say bring it on Genting!

Kuzey Güney

I hope they put it on the ballot! We need the jobs and let the people decide, not the politicians!....

Lamont Eason

The only interest Norman Braman and his No Casinos group have is in stifling any competition for so-called "family friendly" Walt Disney World. Polls clearly showed that the people here in South Florida want a world-class casino and resort. We are the people who stand to benefit from new JOBS and continued revenue that a casino/resort will bring. I am hopeful that the "New Jobs and Revenues for Florida" committee will succeed in putting the casino question on the ballot. I'm looking for work and I am sick and tired of corrupt politicians killing jobs that I and people like me could have.


Looks like Genting is still spending lots o' money, given the previous posters.

Jessie Wilkins

What company would want to invest in Miami after witnessing this wrong-headed attempt to squelch job growth and development? Genting paid around $500 Million for the Miami Herald building and property surrounding it. The public must have a voice, via the ballot box, in determining the kind of return (in jobs and revenue) the City will have.


After the first year of legalized casino gambling then Governor of Mississippi Kirk Fordice was forced to call a special session of the legislature to handle a serious problem caused by the casinos. What was the problem?? THERE WAS TOO MUCH MONEY LEFT IN THE STATE TREASURY!!!

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