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Miami, Fort Pierce Jai-Alai Sale Brings New Casino Operator into Florida Market

November 27, 2012 - 6:00pm

With the Senates new Gaming Committee set to hold its first meeting Monday, another player in the casino world may be moving into the Sunshine State.

Silvermark LLC, which has the same Brooklyn address as casino ownership company Silver Entertainment, has agreed to a $115 million purchase of the Miami and Fort Pierce jai-alai frontons from Florida Gaming Corp.

The two frontons, which also offer poker and pari-mutuel wagering, are a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporation.

According to a business wire release on the deal, the transaction is expected to be completed in the first quarter of fiscal 2013.

Silvermark can terminate the deal within 90 days. It is also subject to Florida Gaming stockholder and regulators approval.

Silver Entertainment owns the Veneto Hotel and Casino in Panama and the Veneto Casino at the Holiday Beach Resort in Curacao.

Among the terms of the sale, Silvermark will assume the debt on the two facilities, including $15 million in notes and mortgages tied with Miami-Dade County on the parking lot at the Miami Jai-Alai Fronton.

As legislators debated the creation of a statewide gaming commission and allowing up to three casinos to be built in the 2012 session, Silvermark LLC registered Brian Ballard and William Turbeville as lobbyists.

And gaming will continue to be dangled before the state as an economic engine in the 2013 session even though the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Disney will again mount their opposition that casinos will only bring competition for existing tourism dollars rather than an expansion of the economy.

Malaysian-based casino giant Genting, which purchased the waterfront Miami Herald building last year, is behind an effort to put the question of casinos before voters in 2014. Internet cafes continue to proliferate, skirting the gambling rules by offering sweepstake prizes rather than directly offering cash rewards. Also, the state will have to start renegotiating its revenue-sharing compact with the Seminole Tribe that brings the state at least $233 million a year in exchange for exclusive rights to blackjack and other table games.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, have both said that since gambling choices have been proliferating across Florida, a clear direction is needed.

Still, in the 2013 session the gaming committee established by Gaetz and headed by Senate Pro Tempore Garrett Richter, R-Naples, is expected to undertake a slow approach as Gaetz, who continues to oppose expanding gaming, has said he isnt rushing into any changes on the gaming options in the state.

The Senate committee talks will still be getting under way in advance of the 2013 session when a group of Wall Street analysts will convene at the Florida Gaming Congress in late February at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino for what is advertised as a no-holds-barred discussion on the future of gaming in Florida.

Front and center in their discussion will be the feasibility of adding destination gaming resorts to an already multibillion-dollar gambling industry in Florida, a release on the event stated.

The panel will be moderated by Joseph Weinert, senior vice president at Spectrum Gaming Group. Panelists include David Berman, senior managing director/head of Gaming, Lodging and Leisure group, Macquarie Capital; Robert Heller, managing director, UBS Investment Bank; Carlo Santarelli, director -- Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., Gamingand Lodging Research; and Joel Simkins, director -- senior Gaming, Lodging and Leisure analyst, Credit Suisse.

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

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