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Casino bill all but dies as Fresen postpones vote



Florida’s resort casino debate has folded for the session.

After a lengthy debate, the House Business and Consumer Affairs and subcommittee stopped short of killing the bill to bring three so-called destination resorts to Florida but, by failing to take a final vote on the measure, left it on life support.

After working for weeks to muster the votes on the 15-member committee, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, couldn’t get a majority. He asked the committee to postpone a vote, leaving it in indefinite limbo under House rules. The only opportunity to revive it is if the House takes up a similar Senate bill.

Minutes after the vote, the House Rules chairman Rep. Gary Aubuchon underscored that point, issuing a statement that as long as he is chairman he will not allow the measure to be revived.

"Today's decision by the House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee to postpone a vote on a bill that would usher in the largest gambling expansion in state history means the issue is dead,'' he said.  He called it a "resounding victory for those of us who have opposed this assault on Florida's family friendly economy."

Jessica Hoppe, general counsel for Genting's Resorts World Miami, said the company will continue its commitment to Florida, will assess the vote, determine what next they can do before the end of session in four weeks and "regroup."

"I would hope this issue comes back alive,'' she said. "We'll just have to wait and see."

She said she expects the bill to come back. "We obviously know this is an issue for Florida that does not end today,'' she said.

A similar bill in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, has passed one committee but has remained stalled as that chamber waited for the more conservative House to take action. Senate President Mike Haridopolos has said he wanted the measure to get a vote of the full Senate.

In the end, Fresen couldn’t overcome the opposition headed up by a coalition of business groups, with financing and support from prominent Miami businessman Norman Braman and Disney World. The coalition included the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, religious groups, and was assisted by the powerful lobby of the state’s existing pari-mutuel industry and the Seminole Tribe.

Dan Adkins, head of Mardi Gras Casino and Racetrack in Hollywood, said they would have supported the bill if it was changed to mirror a provision in the Senate that would give their racinos the same Las Vegas games as the resort casinos. Fresen had already modified the bill to give them to same tax rate.

"I think what this does is it levels the playing field and gives us an oportunit to regroup and try to bring this issue back in the right manner next year,'' Adkins said. 

"What we saw here today obviously showed there was a lot of concern and not a lot of support for a massive expansion of gambling in Florida,'' said David Hart, vice president of the Florida Chamber. "With five weeks left in session to hopefully remove this issue from the table, I think we can now focus on some of the important issues that face this state."

The 15-member committee included members from all areas of the state but was dominated by conservative Republicans. Four of the five Democrats on the committee were members of the House's black caucus and the committee vice chairman, Rep. Joe Abruzzo of West Palm Beach, opposed the bill. Miami Reps. Ana Rivas Logan and Carlos Trujillo, both Republicans, also would have split if a vote had been taken. Rivas Logan had told supporters she favored the bill while Trujillo wrote an op-ed in the Miami Herald announcing his opposition.

Committee chairman Rep. Doug Holder opened the debate over the bill, saying it’s “been a long time coming” and Fresen replied “for a small repealer bill.”

“My task today is to try to frame the purpose of this destination resorts away from everything you have heard for the past six months,’’ Fresen said.

He said the proposal has been “the product of a lot of blood and sweat” but “may not be perfect.”

He noted that in most of Florida history, no gaming bill had ever attempted to retract or restrict gaming, Fresen said, but warned that with the proliferation of Internet Cafes. “We have to do something quickly…if we don’t do something to rein in the out of control expansion of gaming."

He said the first intent is “a net contraction in gaming” by eliminating existing non-active licenses and “recognizes an economic opportunity” in Miami Dade which already has Las Vegas style casinos. “We already have them we are simply trying ot redirect the type of casino gaming.”

Fresen said it was never his intent to create revenue for the state but noted that it will not only protect the revenue but “also create the best opportunity for that to expand it while also create real economic opportunity.”

“Let’s recognize at the very least that there’s something that needs to be done on gaming in the state of Florida…elimination is simply a fool’s dream and it will never happen in this state unfortunately.”

The bill would eliminate dormant gaming permits, he said. It creates “a framework” for up to three destination resorts in Miami Dade and Broward counties but only if county voters approve.

"That will take place in a hyperlocal intensive conversation,” he said.

He called the minimum investment of $2 billion historic and will “elevate” the quality of the resort, create a safeguard and ensure they will no longer build a slot barn.

“Florida is full of loopholes and fake statutes,’’ he said, referring to state gambling laws that include “incredibile specificity and incredible vagueness at the same time.”

“I respect everybody’s decision in this debate,’’ he said, but noted that there are exaggerations, including the projections of 100,000 jobs by supporters. “But it will create tens of thousands of jobs, absolutely, I do believe that.”

Rep. Jim Waldman withdrew his amendment to provide product parity to pari-mutuels. Rep. Geraldine Thompson offered an amendment to create 30 percent economic development for local employers but it failed on a voice vote along party lines.

Miguel Fuentes of the Florida Carpenters Association from Hialeah predicted that his industry has 40 percent unemployment and urged the committee to support the bill as a lifeline to their members.

“On Main Street people are wondering what Tallahassee is going to do today,’’ he said. “I just want an opportunity to have something to compete for…to tell my guys, 10,000 carpenters who want to go to work who don’t want to go on food stamps.”

Everett Wilkinson, chairman of the South Florida Tea Party, said he was “just an average guy” who came to support the bill. He said a poll of 2,000 members supported the measure by 60 percent. 

“This bill is about American dreams,’’ he said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of job – a carpenter or a service person, this will create thousands and thousands of jobs.”

Richard Watson of Associated Builders and Contractors told the committee that they expect 15,000 to 18,000 construction jobs for more than two years if the bill is approved.

“We have a great state and people will continue to visit and we can only expect an expansion of tourism,’’ he said.

Bill Herrle of the National Federation of Independent Businesses said most of their small business owner were divided about casinos but a survey of their members disputed the allegation that it would cannibalize existing opportunity but instead would provide additional entrepreneurial opportunities.

Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida said the money will bring “new money to Florida” and will bring construction, hospitalitiy jobs and other related jobs. “Florida is currently at a fork in the road, down one road is the larget job proposal we hae seen in recently history. The other road is  …this committee is the gatekeeper.

Grace Solares, a neighborhood activist in Miami said the proposal would “be disastrous to the quality of life in this city” and compared it to “opening the door to an incidious diseasse. Do no wash you hands like Pontius pilate did. Do your durty. Stop it now.”

“Not only will South Florida not benefit economically but this project will infect our community” with large scale gambling and crime. “We will lose the existing tourist industry to only one business,’’ she said .

Carol Dover of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association predicted that jobs will close, citing Las Vegas and Atlantic city unemployment rates.

The biggest concern of her members, however, she said, is their business model allows them to heavily discount or give away meals and rooms because they are subsidized by the casino money.

Proponents brought testimony from, the general manager of the Hotel Sofitel, a hospitalitiy expert from Tampa, and a real estate broker who described the empty terrain that has pockmarked downtown Miami.

“Let the people of Miami decide,’’ said David Restainer, sales director Fortune International in Miami. “Cruise ships that you see have casinos inside. We don’t call them casinos. We call them cruise ships. …You put one of those where the empty lots are…you can actaivate that entire area."

Comments

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marc cooper

fresen sucks

muchacha

Well at least we have no more gambling in Florida.

whasup

"Incidious"

Is that some special spelling for some special kind of gambling we don't have?

It's pathetic that they shot this down. After all, this very week, 10s of millions of Americans and huge numbers of Floridians will be gambling on the biggest gambling event our nation has-- the Super Bowl.

Some money will be wagered legally, but most illegally.

But gambling is as American as the biggest gamble the nation ever took--rebelling against the British Empire.

Andres

Of course it failed. Who in their right mind would put clueless Fresen in charge of this.
This is the same guy who doesn't even pay his mortgage

Rip Holmes

Dear Miami Herald Readers:

I personally am greatly relieved that this gambling assault on our morals, and quality of life in Miami, has failed.

We presently live in "one of the 7 vacation wonders of the modern world".

The notion that Moslems from Malaysia can improve on our communitiy -- and I consider our Miami community "God's Garden of Eden" -- with gambling, is a nightmare.

What makes us better than Las Vegas?

For starters, we offer sex appeal, rather than gambling ruination.

I cannot believe this ruinous gambling measured, paid for by Moslems seemingly wanting to corrupt our Sacred Community, got as far as it did.

Sincerely,

Jackson Rip Holmes

Iakefutkot

YES!!!

Don't they have spell-check at the Herald?

Denny Wood

Rep. Fresen is not the best person in the House of Representatives to be handling such a bill.

Locally, he is a class one ADA Violator. His District Office is a series of steps, making it off limits to people in wheelchairs. Which is illegal in America.

The Miami-Dade building department and planning obviously took a bribe to let that location open illegally. And stay open without access for the physically disabled. State law also says he could not open the building unless it is accessible. In a charter county with a strong mayor, it is the mayor who is responsible for compliance on his office. Fat Chance, as the mayor voted to get rid of County wide compliance officers.

If he can't get the committee votes, maybe it is him and not the issue. He was not well liked when he ran for Speaker of the House and lost. And his "employment" is highly questionable. www.dignity4disabled.com for photos of Rep. Fresen's illegal office.

Denny Wood

The House cannot take up the Senate bill unless the companion bill is heard in at least one House Committee. Unless many rules are waived.

The Senate should immediately place the bill on the Special Order Calendar, pass it and send it to the House for committee referral.

This will put more pressure on the Committee Chairman to agenda the bill in committee again.

By which time the lobbyists can turn some heads around. Letters and e-mails from voters back home work. People filing to run against the Chairman and members on the committee, perceived as voting no also works the best.

The legislators involved with the no votes need to know ASAP that they are creating opponents with money backing to run against them in their district this year.

This bill, is not dead, but needs some extraordinary measures as suggested above.

Denny Wood

Regulation is necessary in the gambling business that exists now and has sprung up as "internet cafes".

Recreational players must have some assurances that the games and payoffs are fair and legitimate.

The next step, should be doing this by petition and letting the Florida voters make the decision, not a bunch of legislators shaking down campaign contributions from both sides of the issue. Actually, such a constitutional amendment could be even better than the limited bill at the Legislature. We need to open up this NEW INDUSTRY that compliments tourism, the only economic engine working in Florida right now.

Mr Latin Builders

> Jessica Hoppe, general counsel for Genting's Resorts World Miami, said the company will continue its commitment to Florida, will assess the vote, determine what next they can do before the end of session in four weeks and "regroup."

Dear Ms. Hoppe,

Great effort and don't give up on this magnificent free enterprise project which doesn't depend on taxpayer subsides.

Redouble your efforts in New York to make those business ventures a sterling success. Help supplement the city and state budgets of New York City and the State of New York and soon Florida politicians will take notice and be begging at your doorstep for your input in the Sunshine State. Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo must be smiling from ear to ear right about now if in fact they've heard the news. Competition for tourists dollars have handed them a victory.

Patience overcomes resistance!


Sincerely yours,

Mr Latin Builders, CEO

Me

Miami also just won top honor for being the most miserable city in the United States from Forbes. Traffic, rude people, housing market, violent crimes, corrupt politics, lack of industry all helped bring Miami this great honor. What a great place to live!

cyrusgrey45

"Miami also just won top honor for being the most miserable city in the United States from Forbes." What does that have to do with the issue of real casinos in Miami? What did Forbes say about Las Vegas? Maybe it didn't get bad grades because there are too many casinos and there is too much money there, even with their high unemployment rate. The legislators of this state stink. They want to see people in Miami-Dade county being poor and unemployed because they want to perpetuate the stereotype of the people down here. They want to continue bashing Miami-Dade county, rather than face the fact that many people in Florida are nothing but a bunch of white-trash fundamentalists. All of which makes the case to make Miami-Dade county a Special Administrative Region of the US, just like Hong Kong and Macao are of China. If the "natives" of Florida are so discontent with having a cosmopolitan area down here and if Forbes is so much influenced by the gambling lobbies from other areas of the country and overseas that it interferes with our progress, then the citizens of Miami-Dade county must find a solution that would enable them to do in their county whatever they feel is necessary to improve their standard of living without breaking the laws of the USA. As far as Florida is concerned, we couldn't care less about the state, since apparently they don't care sh it about us. So, Ciao. See you later alligator. Don't worry, be Happy.

Michael McDonald

Last night, NBC carried GLOWING REPORTS from Seminole Casino in Coconut Creek Opening and how they are creating so many jobs. So how much money are the Seminoles, Micossukees, Bahamas, Atlantic City and rust bucket gambling boats putting up to lobby against Casinos in Florida because they are evil. PLEASE PEOPLE - we have casinos - we want the convention centers that go with big time casinos. The only ones the new mega resorts threaten are the existing Indian Gaming Casinos here and the weekend junkets to Freeport ... understand it is Casino money funding the anti-casino movement

Kathleen

WAKE UP MIAMI!!!! Casinos are good because they employ thousands of men and women in hundreds of jobs that are created from gaming. These people spend money feeding their families, paying their mortgages and/or paying the rent, dining in restaurants, buying new cars and homes and property, taking their families on vacations and paying their taxes. Take the time and go visit Governor Ed Rendell who has gaming in Pennsylvania and see how well he is handling this windfall for his State. Let the people of Miami VOTE on this important subject for themselves!!!!! Kathleen

Yale guy

This is ridiculous. Who are these idiots that don't thin gambling is already in Florida. WHy would we not want to let a bunch of Asians bring money over here to invest adn build a big resort.

Dan

Gensing will "regroup". Translation: More money to grease the wheels !

MIKE

MIGHT AS WELL CANT HURT THE MOST MISERABLE CITY ON EARTH

KATHRYN HARLAN

Great News!! Now why don't our politicians try to get an industry that does not destroy lives to come to Miami such as medical research or technology!! Gambling is a loser unless you are the house!!

Hammerin Hank

Opponents to this bill speak as though there were no such thing as gambling in Florida. Horses, dogs, jai alai, Pari-mutuel casinos, Indian gaming, sports gambling, cruise ships that load up on people in our harbors, charter flights to the Bahamas, the state lottery, and online casino gambling are all perfectly legal and thriving. If you are bent on going broke gambling, you've got tons of choices, and no one can or should stop you. This has nothing to do with morality. It's crony protectionism. This is an issue for the people to decide on, not special interest groups of either persuasion. With local economies and unemployment in the shape they're in, politicians who oppose this bill are not only rejecting private casinos, they are approving their own term limits. Go for it. I dare you.

Michael Wind

they should build the resort it will be good for miami ,florida and usa,but miami is so corrupt everything has to be fraud,and everyone has to be shmeard,lets analyze the opposition braman do investigation on his dealerships,carnival no need to say we all know,seminole just go to the reservation and you will see criminal activity,local politicians give them lie detector tests everyone will fail,people need to wake up,and yes religious organization ,we all know what that is,dont delay progress....

John Balzer

The hatred for legislators like Trujillo, Holder, Aubuchon is mounting. Citizens realize how these pompus, prancing peacocks think they are above repudiation. They will all be voted out of office. They have shafted Florida.

M. Wright

It is a disgrace that our legislature does not even vote on the issue. These resort casino destinations would bring thousands of jobs to south Florida. If he thinks gambling is wrong, does he think drinking is wrong? Would he close bars, restaurants and nightclubs? No one is forced to go to a casino. If you think it immoral, stay away. I don't drink, but I don't want to close down the bars. Think how many people will remain unemployed because of his myopic rationale. Did Disney pay him off? You can go to a casino on vacation for much less than a trip to Walt Disney World.

Maria Gomez

Reports vary but Fresen only "postponed" the vote after he was handed his hat, being TOLD it would neither come to a vote or be allowed to come to a vote. We needed jobs and the legislators gave us NOTHING. Greedy special interest keeps pounding away with their vapid excuses to stop reform. The resorts need to keep trying and we the people need to vote the deadbeats out of office and have a referendum on the casino issue.

TEHO

Keep those BIG casinos out of Florida !

They had 3 strike outs in 1978, 1986, 1994 !

Great news … the BIG casinos are still striking out in 2012 !

Please read this very interesting report from Casino Gambling: Is it A Good Bet for Florida’s Future ? by Gary Yates :

“The question of whether casino gambling will be allowed in Florida has been answered (in the negative) by Florida voters three times since 1978. … In a statewide referendum in November of 1994, the voters of Florida soundly defeated (by a vote of 62% to 38%) a proposition which would have amended the State Constitution to allow legalized, casino-style gambling at 47 sites throughout Florida. The voting ended a year long and well financed campaign by the pro-casino lobby—one in which they spent over $16 million compared to the estimated $1.5 million spent by the statewide anti-gambling organization, NoCasinos in Florida Inc. This defeat was the third such defeat for casino interest in the last 15 years. Voters also soundly rejected casino gambling in both 1978 and 1986. Voters also soundly rejected casino gambling in both 1978 and 1986. The organized opposition of the local and state law enforcement community is generally thought to have been a major factor in the defeat of these propositions.”

Here is the link to the complete report:

http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Content/getdoc/4df9ca54-39b8-45e6-bfb1-666dbb17c4f9/Yates.aspx

dog of war

Diaz-Balart and a lot of politicians are being paid big money on this, but it's still too controversial to pass. It's been many years under consideration and Florida/Miami still isn't convinced.

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