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Casino bill gets rough treatment in normally friendly committee

The Senate sponsor of a bill to bring destination resort casinos to South Florida faced a hostile first committee Wednesday even as economists came up with a new projection that shows the project will bring the state a windfall of between $327 million and $455 million in new revenue.

A majority of the members of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, traditionally a welcome place for casino expansion legislation, told Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, they’d like to see significant changes to the bill before they agree to support it.

Bogdanoff, for the first time, outlined the changes she is willing to make to strengthen support for the measure that would allow for three $2 billion resort casinos in Miami Dade and Broward. And legislative economist Amy Baker detailed the first independent economic analysis she has done of the proposed bill.

Baker said that if the bill becomes law, three resort casinos could generate between $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion in annual gaming each year, beginning in 2016. Story here.

Meanwhile the battle between the business lobbying groups continued to mount. 

Proponents hired someone to dress in a mouse costume and hold a sign outside the committee room that said, “The Florida Chamber is my lap mouse,” a reference to the fact that the organization is lobbying against the bill on behalf of Disney.

During the meeting, state Sen. John Thrasher blasted the lobbyist for Associated Industries of Florida for criticizing the legislature for not doing enough to promote jobs in Florida. The lobbying group is working on behalf of the casino promoters and is running a $100,000 ad campaign in North Florida.   

“I’m a little offended frankly by your presentation,’’ said Thrasher, R-Jacksonville. “For your association to criticize this Legislature on that I think is deplorable.’’