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Up to $2.2 million in lobbyist spending tied to gambling debate

As debate on a proposal to build three South Florida “destination resorts” heated up, both sides accused the other of spending big bucks on lobbyists and other consultants to shape public opinion. The latest compensation report proves that roughly two dozen lobbying firms cashed in.

Casinos, pari-mutuel facilities and business groups paid lobbyists between $1.4 million and $2.2 million to argue their case to legislators and members of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, according to a Times/Herald analysis of the reports covering January through March. (Because, state law allows firms to report compensation within a $10,000 range, exact amounts cannot be determined.)

Malaysia-based Genting Resorts, which purchased land in downtown Miami in hopes of building the world’s largest casino, paid eight firms and as much as $679,985 through its East Coast subsidiary and Bayfront 2011 Development affiliate.

Other casinos on the list:

    -Las Vegas Sands paid two firms up to $105,000 to lobbying the legislative and executive branches
    -Wynn Resorts paid up to $100,000.
    -Caesar Entertainment had a contract with Tsamoutales Strategies worth up to $60,000.
    -Isles of Capri Casinos had a contract with Bitner Associates worth up to $30,000.
    -Magic City Casino had a contract with Akerman Senterfitt worth up to $20,000.
    -Mardi Gras Casino had a contract with Greenspoon Marder worth up to $20,000.

Associated Industries of Florida was a major proponent of the “destination resorts” legislation, though the topic was among many the group tracked during the 2012 session. The organization spent up to $210,000 hiring outside lobbyists at eight different firms during the session.

Among the opponents to the legislation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce spent up to $160,000 between five different firms, though it too had a variety of interests during the session.

Walt Disney World spent as much as $70,000, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association had contracts worth as much as $60,000, and the advocacy organization No Casinos spent up to $40,000. All were opposed to expanded gaming, too.

As the resort casino bill fizzled, legislators turned their attention to the broader topic of expanded gambling and how it could impact the state’s existing revenue-sharing agreement with the Seminole Tribe. The Seminoles paid three lobbying firms as much as $160,000 during the reporting period.

Among the pari-mutuels who retailed lobbyists:

    -Gulfstream Park Racing Association spent up to $100,000.
    -Jacksonville Greyhound Racing had contracts worth as much as $70,000.
    -West Flagler Kennel Club spent $50,000.
    -Ocala Jai-Alai spent up to $20,000.

Note: This blog was updated from the original version to reflect reports filed later Tuesday.