House Subcommittee Not Showing its Cards on Casino Bill

By: Jim Turner | Posted: January 12, 2012 3:55 AM
Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino
Destination gaming could face a quick end in the House after the first committee workshop on the controversial proposal to set up a statewide gaming commission and allow three casino resorts.

Members of the House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee gave no direction on how to proceed with the bill after nearly two hours of comments and presentations from gaming interests and opponents on Wednesday.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, who said he hasn’t personally made a decision on the bill, called the meeting “educational” for those on the committee.

“We’ll go back and sit down and discuss the topics that were covered today and we’ll make a decision on how we’re going to move forward,” Holder said. “That could entail another workshop, it could entail ending the discussion, it could entail a vote, it just depends on how comfortable we feel.”

The House subcommittee’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 17.

The House is working on the bill from Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, HB 487, which doesn’t include the numerous amendments the Senate Regulated Industries Committee added to the package before giving it support on Monday.

“We’re not going to wait to see what the Senate does,” Holder said. “We’re going through the process our way. We realize it’s a little bit slower than the pace of the Senate, but we’re going to vet this slowly before making any final decisions.”

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, called the Senate changes "interesting," but said he is not pushing members to move the House version.

"It's very much my practice not to comment on the contents and likelihood of success or failure of any member bill,” Cannon said Tuesday. "It will be up to our committee to see how they respond to that."

Little new ground was broached during the "educational" presentation Wednesday, in which representatives for both Las Vegas Sands and Resorts World Miami, a division of casino giant Genting Group, told the representatives they had no plans to build unless the resort would include a casino.

Resorts World Miami representative Jessica Hoppe said the company's plans to develop in downtown Miami could be delayed by decades if the resort were prohibited from including a casino in a project that the bill would require to include $2 billion in construction and amenities.

“If the casino component is not approved by the Legislature, our development of the property there would be significantly reduced and our time frame would be significantly elongated,” Hoppe said.

Otherwise, Genting, which agreed to purchase the Miami Herald property that overlooks Biscayne Bay for $236 million last May, hopes to have construction of the casino resort under way and completed in three to five years.

Meanwhile, pari-mutuel operators, the Florida Chamber and other opponents told the subcommittee that allowing mega-casinos will take away from existing business rather than attract additional tourism traffic.

“We cannot compete with this mega-casino model,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Tallahassee-based Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. 

“If you’re not familiar with places like Atlantis: These models tend to not only cut their room rates down to the core, they will also package them to give the rooms away because their money is made on the gambling side. That package could include free food. Free hotel. This is a city under one roof.”

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (6)

2:14AM JAN 13TH 2012
Disgusted. Since when is a $2Billion Dollar Investment Bad???? Sounds like typical politicians getting paid off to NOT create jobs. Let's bring people to Florida!
2:03PM JAN 12TH 2012
There has been many occassions where there is not enough hotel rooms available on south beach, a place that everyone who comes to Miami intends to visit. Room rates here are ridiculously high because there at 'full' capacity. Destination Resorts WILL bring additional tourist to the area, and if the location of a destination resort is in downtown Miami, i highly doubt that will take away from anyone visiting South Beach. If you've ever stayed at a casino resort, it gets boring after one day. Gambling is actually boring to me so as a local who lives on So Be, i doubt i would visit the destination resort maybe once if at all, but i do believe that it will help jump start florida's economy by creating jobs, and by being an 'attraction' to the worldwide market thereby increasing overall tourisim, not taking from it.
Jill Saddlebrook
11:05AM JAN 12TH 2012
Holder is holding out for more money. This smells like a shakedown. These Legislators will continue put up roadblocks to the Bills passage until they have extracted enough "donations." It sure sounds like the Parimutuels or the Internet cafes have put some money in Mr. Holder's pockets. Politics as usual.
8:41AM JAN 12TH 2012
Did someone forget to pay off Rep. Holder? Mr. Wynn, please rush a check over to this guy because Florida can't wait for this bill.

Also, has Carol Dover ever checked the price for rooms at Atlantis? Around $500 a night and food is outrageous too. How about the Hard Rock? Have you checked the rates there? Around $250 a night and their booked 99%. Typical misinformation.
2:09PM JAN 12TH 2012
Does the Seminoles - The Hard Rock Hotel - pay the state tourism room tax or do they get out of paying that tax too?
5:44PM JAN 12TH 2012
The Seminoles pay millions a year through the compact agreement in lieu of state taxes per federal law known as IGRA. You as a citizen of US, gain from things like the 441 and most of the west.

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