Disney Prepared to Fight Destination Casinos as The Genting Group Buys Herald Building in Miami

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many continued efforts of The Genting Group and others to bring mega-destination, Las Vegas-styles casinos to Florida.  After early legislative losses two years ago, The Genting Group decided to use a ballot initiative to bring the issue to the voters.  They ultimately suspended that effort in hopes of delaying the process until 2014 after a newly established gambling committee decided to institute a moratorium until a study could be complete.  The Genting Group is moving forward with the resort part of the development assuming the study results will be favorable to expanded gambling. The Miami Herald is reporting that site The Genting Group plans to use has been okayed for demolition:

The Malaysian gaming giant that bought the former Miami Herald site in downtown Miami Monday received a permit to demolish the media company’s former headquarters.

The demolition is slated to take place by the end of 2013, according to a statement released by Bill Thompson, senior vice president of development for Resorts World Miami, which is owned by The Genting Group.

In March, Genting revealed plans for a mixed-use complex with a five-star hotel, luxury condos, waterfront restaurants, retail space and an 800-foot long promenade along Biscayne Bay. Those plans were significantly scaled back from an initial $3.8 billion project, proposed in 2011, that was to include a casino.

Given the controversial company hired to conduct the study, and the plans from Genting to push forward, many groups are see the writing on the wall and plan to fight such gambling expansion.  One of the biggest opponents, Disney, is prepared to defend Florida family values against expanded gambling.  Legislation is still necessary for expansion, the Sunshine State News explains how Disney and others plan to fight:

Walt Disney World officials apparently are pumping vast sums of money into a new campaign to kill enabling legislation for destination-resort casinos in 2014. And they’re doing it by enlisting the services of a small army of traditional lobbyist firms, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and No Casinos Inc.

“Right now I couldn’t tell you exactly how much money Disney is spreading around,” said Nick Iarossi, chief lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands in Tallahassee, “but I know it’s considerable. And I know there is a widespread belief in Tallahassee that they are using No Casinos as a front.”

In an interview Monday with Sunshine State News, Iarossi said Disney has a large piece of convention and meeting business in Florida, and a “fear of competition” from casinos, especially now that Spectrum Gaming Group is conducting a comprehensive multi-part study of gaming in Florida. It’s a study lawmakers hope to use in 2014 to craft comprehensive legislation to regulate the state’s gambling industry.

As part of that study, Spectrum issued a report in July concluding, among other things, that Florida’s family-friendly tourism brand could be damaged if casinos are allowed in the state.

Disney isn’t talking. But it apparently fattened its war chest, Iarossi said, with the idea that this is the year, this is the time, to go all out in opposing integrated resort casinos in Florida.

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