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Nancy Smith

Florida Gaming Congress Wide Open for All Stakeholders, All Ideas

February 24, 2013 - 6:00pm

The Florida Gaming Congress now under way in Hollywood has a simple but important part to play in deciding the future of gambling in Florida.

"Our job is to tell people not what they want to hear, but what they need to know," explainsAllison McCoy, senior vice president of marketing for Spectrum Gaming Group.

Who is on hand? Elected officials, consultants, lobbyists, regulators, investors and suppliers, industry and tourism executives of every description. This is a year the Florida Legislature called for a moratorium on gambling issues going to a vote. There won't be any. And last week the Senate and House committees on gaming called for bids on a gaming study.

"The state lottery, as well as cruises, card rooms, casinos, and 'Internet cafes' have emerged. Meanwhile, the states approach to regulating and taxing gaming activities has not kept pace," Senate Gaming Committee Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, wrote in his "invitation to negotiate" announcement, "Layers of exceptions and patches are not working well to promote the states overall economic and social welfare. The situation demands a comprehensive critical assessment."

Assessing the results of the study is the job ofSenate President Don Gaetz and Speaker Will Weatherford. The study itself is due to be complete by Oct. 1 and is meant "to set a factual foundation for our deliberations ...(It) will analyze not only what we have but also new possibilities knocking at the door. It will inform our choice of whether or not to open the door (to more gambling), and if so, how wide," said Richter.

Michael J. Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, points out how well the the congress dovetails with studying all aspects of gaming.

"This is where leaders from a variety of fields can offer ideas, express concerns and debate policies," Pollack says. "When it comes to the future of gaming, the Sunshine State needs more light, not more heat."

Wednesday is the event's heavy-lifting day.

-- In the "Destination Florida?" program, key participants areRobert Jarvis, professor of law, Nova Southeastern University Law Center, moderator;attorney Scott Ross of Floridian Partners;Chris Davidson, EVP/Global Strategy & Client Leadership, MMGY Global; Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Pembroke Park, Florida House of Representatives; Alan Koslow, director of entertainment, hospitality and gaming law, Becker & Poliakoff; Virginia McDowell, president and chief executive officer, Isle of Capri Casinos Inc.; Michael Yormark, president and chief operations officer, Sunrise Sports & Entertainment
-- In "The Future of Racetrack Gaming" program: Joseph Weinert, senior vice president, Spectrum Gaming Group moderating;Daniel K. Adkins, vice president and chief operating officer, Mardi Gras Casino; Steve Calabro, president and general manager, Hialeah Park Racing & Casino; Izzy Havenick, vice president, Magic City Casino; Dave Jonas, president, Casino Miami Management; and Austin Miller, president, Calder Casino & Race Course and senior vice president, Churchill Downs Inc.

-- In "Wall Street's Focus on Florida:"Robert Heller, CEO, Spectrum Gaming Capital, moderates;Christopher E. Jones, director, Telsey Advisory Group LLC; Gregory Roselli, executive director, Credit Fixed Income, Gaming Lodging & Leisure, UBS Securities LLC; Carlo Santarelli, director, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., Gaming & Lodging Research; Joel Simkins, director -- senior gaming, lodging and leisure analyst, Credit Suisse

-- In "Gaming and Public Policy" participants areMarc Dunbar Esq., partner, Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carrere & Denegre LLP, moderating; Carol Dover, CEO, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association; Pat Fowler, executive director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling; Frank Nero, president and CEO, The Beacon Council; David Romanik, gaming attorney and former Gulfstream Park CEO and general counsel; Mark Wilson, president and CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce.

-- In the "Internet Gaming in the U.S." segment:Gene Johnson, senior vice president, marketing research and online studies, Spectrum Gaming Group, moderates; Leo DiBenigno, managing partner, Corvara Consulting LLC and former secretary of the Florida lottery; Mark Hichar, attorney, Hinckley, Allen & Snyder; Laurie Itkin, founder, Rouge Government & Public Affairs; the Hon. Robert Smith, chairman, California Tribal Business Alliance; Jennifer Webb, regulatory and legislative manager, Americas Gambling Compliance.

John Fontana, president of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tampa, will offer Wednesday's opening address. And former Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, now executive vice president of the Stronach Group, will deliver the luncheon keynote address.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at (850) 727-0859.

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