Casino Watch Focus reported that Las Vegas Sands Corp and Wynn Casinos pitched their idea for Vegas style casinos to the Senate Regulation Industries Committee. Now an online source is reporting that two Florida State Senators serving in that Committee, Dennis Jones and Maria Sachs, have officially filed legislation that would create destination gambling casinos:
Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, and Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, announced the news via a release Friday. Jones is chair and Sachs is vice chair of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, which gambling falls under.
The legislation would authorize what Jones calls one “destination resort” in each of five districts across the state. Broward and Miami-Dade counties comprise one district. Palm Beach County is part of another, along four counties that neighbor it. The casinos would require approval by local referendum, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state’s pari-mutuels say they’re going to fight it.
This legislation would have an impact on the 2010 agreement between the Florida government and the Seminole Tribe. The agreement allows the Seminole Tribe to offer blackjack and other table games in their casinos at a payoff price of about $1 billion over five years to the Florida government. That agreement was based on the Seminoles being the only casinos allowed in the state and destination casinos would void the exclusivity of the agreement, thus costing Florida those funds. The online article explained that the tradeoff will be a tough sell:
“If the Legislature wants to allow in new entities, it will have to decide if it’s a good tradeoff,” tribe spokesman Gary Bitner said. “Are they going to make enough to make up the assured payments from the tribe?” Until now, gambling in Florida has grown piecemeal. But getting the state, and then the public, to take the leap to full casinos could be a tough sell.
Dick Batchelor, a Democrat from Orlando who served in the Florida House of Representatives for eight years, said he and others feel such an expansion could hurt the state. “We all know it’s about money, but rather than do the right thing and set better priorities; they’re going to the vice industry, and I’m a pretty liberal guy,” he said. “The bottom line is, ‘Is it good for Florida?’ and I would suggest it’s not at all good.
“The ultimate result of this legislation will be a net loss due to the decimation of the pari-mutuel industry and lost revenue from the Seminole compact,” said [John Lockwood of Gunster law firm, who represents a number of pari-mutuel facilities in Florida].