« U.S. Senate to probe Florida voting laws | Main | A new website for Florida: Florida Voices »

LV Sands challenges Bondi for suggesting that casinos equal crime

When Attorney General Pam Bondi suggested that casinos will be a magnet for money laundering at her press conference last week, she conjured up images and crime and corruption brought on by gambling dens. Las Vegas Sands Vice President Government Operations, Andy Abboud, shot back in a letter to Bondi. Download BondiLetterfkmrk doc

"We think you will find that there may have been more enforcement actions against banks and other financial institutions than casinos,'' he wrote. He then went on to suggest that if Florida has a problem with gambling, it may be because of its weak regulations.

"While I certainly respect your moral opposition to expanded gaming I must reiterate to you that Florida is currently a gaming state,'' Abboud wrote.  "There is no form of gambling that cannot occur in the State or on its waters.  Between full scale tribal casinos, pari-mutuels with slot machines, poker, and wagering on races, cruises to nowhere with full scale casinos, internet cafes with slot machines, senior arcades, and the state sponsored lottery there is hardly an area of the state where your residents can not gamble."

He then offered Bondi a piece of advice: "The way that you prevent the many issues you were discussing yesterday in your press conference is through a strict regulatory process with highly vetted operators."

At the press conference last Thursday, Bondi called for the rejection of the bill supported by Sands that would bring destination resort casinos to South Florida. "This isn’t something I did lightly,'' she said. "I spoke personally to many law enforcement officers. In Hillborough County, one of the last drug trafficking cases involved laundering money through a casino,'' she said. When asked where, she said The Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa.

In response, the Seminole Tribe of Florida issued the following statement:

"No illegal activities are condoned or allowed at Seminole Casinos, which closely follow federal anti-money laundering rules by reporting all suspicious incidents to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which is then responsible for alerting appropriate law enforcement agencies.  Seminole casinos also cooperate fully in all federal, state and local law enforcement investigations."

Here's the transcript of Bondi's additional comments from the press conference:

"I’m here today because I believe authorizing mega casinos would take our state in a fundamentally wrong direction. We need less gambling, not more. As a former prosecutor, I share the concerns of law enforcement officers that authorizing mega casinos can lead to increased crime. I simply cannot stand by and watch the ground work being laid for a Florida where there will be casinos -- and there will be casinos throughout our state.

"It’s been suggested that allowing mega casinos in South Florida is the best way to ensure that there’s no further expansion of gambling. But that argument reminds of what was said early on when the Seminole Compact was made a few years ago. We were told giving the Seminoles exclusive rights to casinos would be so lucrative that in floroida that there would be no need for an expansion of gambling.

 "Yet here we are, only a few short time later, being asked to go along with yet another massive expansion. The fact is, allowing mega casinos in Florida will only serve to justify the next push for even more gambling in other parts of Florida.

"In fact, under the terms of our compact with the Seminoles, authorizing mega casinos in South Florida will give the Seminoles the legal right to convert the Tampa Hard Rock casino to a full blown Vegas-style casino. So there we have it. We would have the full expansion in Tampa. Surely, we can do better than promoting that in our state."