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Florida chamber says it wants jobs, just not casino jobs

The Florida Chamber of Commerce won’t be backing an expansion of casino gambling in South Florida.

The Tallahassee-based organization’s president Mark Wilson, in Orlando Thursday on business, reiterated the chamber’s 20-year-old position against expanding casino gambling in the state.

The Genting Group — which plans a massive resort, gaming and entertainment complex where The Miami Herald now stands — as well as other major casino operators, are pushing for legislation that would allow them to expand casino gambling in South Florida.

“We agree with 90 percent of Genting’s proposal,’’ said Wilson in an interview as he drove from Orlando Thursday afternoon. “It’s the casino that we oppose.’’

Gambling, he said, would hurt existing businesses, as well as Florida’s ability to diversify its economy.

Wilson said he has met with Genting executives four times and expressed the chamber’s position. But if Genting were to buy other casino operators’ licenses, thereby actually reducing gambling in the state, the chamber would take a second look, he said.

Wilson joined Chamber representatives of Walt Disney World, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and No Casinos, Inc., at a meeting of the Orlando Sentinel editorial board Thursday to talk about their opposition to gambling. The Chamber accepts corporate contributions and does not reveal how much members contribute to its "investment level" membership but it is widely known to lobby most vigorously on behalf of issues supported by its largest donors.

“Florida is on the map now for high-wage, high-skilled jobs,’’ Wilson said. “We just don’t think we should sell out Florida’s long term future for the opportunity to make a quick buck.’’

Genting paid $236 million for nearly 14 acres of land formerly owned by the Miami Herald. Under the contract, the Herald will stay in its current building rent-free through May 2013.

-- Ina Paiva Cordle

 

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