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Poll shows strong Miami-Dade support, especially w/Hispanics, for Vegas-style casinos


About 56 percent of likely Miami-Dade County voters want Las Vegas-style “destination resorts” casinos, according to a new poll that shows solid support across party lines.

Hispanics back the concept the most: 60 percent said they would favor a proposed state constitutional amendment to allow up to three of the proposed casino resorts in South Florida.

The survey was paid for by unnamed gaming interests. The industry has released similar polls with similar results in prior years, only to see their efforts to expand gambling go bust in the Florida Legislature.

This year, however, might be different now that state House Republicans — once a bastion of opposition to expanded gambling — have shown more of a willingness to talk about the issue.

“The story here is that there's a strong level of enthusiasm among Hispanics, among Cuban Americans and even among Republicans in Miami-Dade for high-end resorts like this,” said Tom Eldon, who conducted the survey of 400 of the county’s likely voters. The survey has an error margin of 4.9 percentage points.

Even if a proposed constitutional amendment made the ballot — one has been discussed but not drafted — support doesn’t appear strong enough to pass it statewide. It takes 60 percent of the vote to enact a constitutional amendment.

Eldon’s poll showed that a medical marijuana initiative, which will be on the November ballot, garners enough support — 64 percent in Miami-Dade — but that the gaming initiative falls just short of the supermajority threshold.

Under Florida law, gambling is limited to eight Indian casinos that offer Las Vegas-style gaming — except for craps and roulette. Thirty-one pari-mutuel facilities also offer some types of gambling.

Eldon’s poll asked respondents whether they would favor an amendment that “allowed for the construction of three or less destination resort casinos limited to South Florida counties like Broward or Miami-Dade.”

The language of the poll indicates that gaming interests — led by Las Vegas Sands Resorts and Kuala Lumpur-based Genting — would sell the initiative as a way to halt the spread of gambling while allowing for just a little more of it in communities that want it.

Assuming the amendment passed, local county voters would then probably have a say in a referendum over the addition of the casino resorts.

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