Gov.- Elect Rick Scott attends in the Military Appreciation: Honoring Those Who Serve concert event at the Leon County Civic Center as part of a day of events in the lead-up to his inauguration as the 45th Governor of Florida Monday, January 3, 2011, in Tallahassee, Florida. The event features performances from John Michael Montgomery,... Read more »
A state Senate committee in Florida will consider a bill to bring Las Vegas-style casino gambling to the state. Senator Dennis Jones, a Republican from Seminole, chairs the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, which oversees gambling. He’s sponsoring a bill to bring destination casinos to the state.
According to Jones’ bill, Florida would allow four to five casino resorts to bid for a chance to operate full casinos, including slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps. Bidders would pay a $50 million application fee and, in return, would have an exclusive contract to operate the games within a 75-mile radius. Jones said 3.5 million Floridians leave the state to gamble elsewhere, and he would like for them to gamble in the state.
Lobbyists for Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts also made presentations to the committee. They’re interested in building convention-style casinos that would compete with Florida’s existing horse and dog racetracks plus the seven casinos on the Seminole Tribe’s reservations.
“We’re hoping that there will be legislation put forward that will be conducive to us creating a model,” said Andy Abboud, vice president of Las Vegas Sands.
He said his company would build four “spectacularly designed” destinations with 90 percent dedicated to massive convention center, shops and entertainment space.
Opponents note if the state opens new casinos, it will lose the $1 billion the Seminole Tribe will bring in over the next five years. Last year, the Florida legislature approved a 20-year compact with the Seminole Tribe, and also lowered the slot tax for dog and horse racetracks. The compact can be revisited after five years.
Parimutuels, Indian tribes, anti-gambling groups and Orlando area legislators who want to protect Disney interests all can be expected to oppose gambling expansion.
Some lawmakers who were opposed to gambling in the past have changed their minds about it, such as Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Republican of Fort Lauderdale.
“It’s not expansion. It’s here,” she said. “We’re already the fourth-largest gambling state in the nation.”
The state collects $400 million in gambling revenues annually. “At the end of the day, we can give Las Vegas a run for their money,” Bogdanoff said. “We both have sand. The difference is we have both sand and water.”