Sponsors: Why Casino Bill is Good for Florida


The Desitnation Resort legislation we filed in October has triggered a spirited statewide debate. We have observed with intrigue and at times disappointment as tired rhetoric and clever sound bytes attempt to bury the facts relevant to this topic. So here we seek to reiterate the facts and share our vision for Florida’s future.

First, we must recognize and admit that under the nose of an “anti-gaming” legislature, both Democrat and Republican, Florida has become the 4th largest gaming state in the nation over the last 10 years. More recently, it has grown in large part through statutory loopholes and clever lawyering. There seems to be no end in sight as to the expansion and lack of strategic direction to address it.

Second, this bill is not bringing anything new to this state. “Las Vegas” style casinos are already present in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Hillsborough counties. The concept of the Destination Resort simply reforms what we have by moving from the third-tier gaming that caters exclusively to a local residents, to one that attracts non-Floridian and international tourists. Make no mistake; we would like nothing more than to eliminate all gambling in our state. As native Floridians, it is not something we believe our state needs, but our current landscape was set in motion with the lottery, long before either of us was elected.

One argument against: Why not forget Destination Resorts and simply shut down the Internet cafes and let the pari-mutuel industry die a slow death? If it were that easy it would have been done years ago. This is a challenging issue to tackle and to attempt that type of reduction is not a political reality but simply the making of a political statement. The next best thing is to harness and re-direct the type of gaming that does and will exist. This bill will be the first proposal that creates a strategic vision for gaming in Florida. We have done it in Education, Health Care, Criminal Justice, and Economic Development. The time has come to address gambling.

Without legislative approval or direction, the last few years have witnessed a proliferation of gambling locations throughout Florida. We’ve seen “internet cafes,” which are basically unregulated and untaxed slot barns open up in strip malls and grow to over 2,000 locations. A recent court ruling seems to allow slot machines in any county in this state, and the Seminole Indian casinos, which were sold a monopoly on the cheap by the state through the Compact, continue expanding. We could have taken a different path. We chose not to under the premise that if we gave the Seminoles a monopoly on the Vegas style casinos, that gambling would cease to expand in this state. Again the public was misled.

It is time to be sincere and to lead. We strongly disagree that our proposal would constitute the largest expansion of gaming in the state’s history. There are many ways to define “expansion.” Is it one more dollar spent? Is it an expansion of games offered? Or is it simply additional locations to enter and place a bet. In all three of the scenarios, the lottery is the reigning champ of expansion. Arguably, an expansion of locations where one can gamble is the broadest definition. Thus, every time a supermarket or gas station opens, that is a new gambling location. That is where this bill desires to reduce gaming. We will address “internet cafes” and either shut them down or highly regulate them. In doing so, we will see either no or an over 75% reduction in the number of locations. Additionally, placing the lottery under the new gaming commission, could limit its expansion.

There are three other arguments that the “anti-gaming” organizers will use to attack this bill. First, that it will make us “the next Las Vegas or Atlantic City.” Second, that it will cannibalize existing businesses, and third that the social consequences out-weigh any benefit. All are intellectually dishonest. We could never be Vegas or Atlantic City. Vegas is a desert that but for casinos, nobody would visit. Atlantic City was a ghost town before casinos came. Now, casinos are the only attraction. South Florida already is an international destination, adding gaming to high-end resorts only enhances the mix of entertainment options. We are limiting the number of resorts and the new Gaming Commission, together with local governments, will have broad authority to determine how many resorts, their scale, and location.

With respect to cannibalization, arguing against competition is just silly. Quality businesses always survive. Disney will continue to thrive. And Florida, with its “decadent” nightclubs on South Beach, its strip clubs throughout the state, and yes, gambling, has never lost its family friendly image and never will. While it may be true that social ills follow gaming, given the nature of our current offerings, those ills already exist. Arguably, moving from the predatory gaming of local slot barns, Internet cafes, and the lottery toward Destination Resorts could help mitigate these hazards. No one has ever made the argument that more restaurants, bars, or liquor stores produce a greater number of alcoholics. Addiction is what it is and five-star hotels with a limited casino component are less likely to attract the low-income addict.

Lastly, we will have to address parity for the pari-mutuel industry (aka South Florida casinos). In large part we are here because this industry funded the campaign to put slots on the ballot. It opened the door for the Seminole Indian casinos and set us on a path that has created a patchwork quilt of laws difficult to navigate and harness. We will finally address where our state needs to be in years to come. If we fail to do so, we will find ourselves as the number one gaming state within five years and compromise Florida politically and economically. There will be no turning back.



Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, State Senate District 25

Erik Fresen, House of Representatives District 111


 (Personal disclosure:  My son Aaron Nevins is Ellyn Bogdanoff’s senior legislative aide.)

8 Responses to “Sponsors: Why Casino Bill is Good for Florida”

  1. Tommy T says:

    Right now the Seminole are getting all the money. My understanding is that pay a small amount under the agreement with Crist and are paying no regular taxes. This bill would provide competition to them, not stifle competition.

  2. Stacie says:

    We need the jobs. We need the revenue. Pass it now!

  3. Senator John Blutarsky says:

    Senator Bogdanoff, let me begin by stating that I am a big fan and long-time admirer.

    First, you state “Florida has become the 4th largest gaming state in the nation over the last 10 years. More recently, it has grown in large part through statutory loopholes and clever lawyering.” Actually, it has grown through an amendment to the State Constitution to allow slots at pari-mutuels to “fund education and save horse racing, dog racing, and jai alai.” None of those things happened. What did happen was the passage of that amendment allowed the Seminoles and Miccosukees to drastically expand their gaming on sovereign lands. I don’t have a problem with the tribes having numerous rights on sovereign land.

    Second: “this bill is not bringing anything new to this state. “Las Vegas” style casinos are already present in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Hillsborough counties.” Disagree. We don’t have anything close to Vegas style resorts here. We have ugly barn-shaped buildings next to dog tracks filled with slot machines, and no amenities or attractions to draw new visitors. Promises made by the pari-mutuels have not been kept, seven years later. Tax Revenues. No. Destinations?. No (Gulfstream at least tried a little). Your proposed bill is a game changer.

    You go on to state that a comprehensive vision will be created. My question is: Why only three destination casinos? Why not let the market dictate how many are appropriate? Why should three well-connected casinos with the most connected lobbyists get to print money? If there is a demand for destination casinos, why not let the market decide?

    As I said, I’m a fan, and maybe the next time I see you at 11th Street Annex, I’ll say hello

  4. SAM FIELDS says:

    I have little doubt that the Genting project will severely damage the overall economy of South Florida. The examples are in and out of Florida.

    We need to understand this simple basic truth. The responsibility of casinos is but one thing. It is, like all other businesses, to maximize the profits of the shareholders by any means the law allows—and maybe does not allow.

    The one and only goal is to make sure that customers don’t leave the casino until their pockets are empty.

    Every penny spent outside the hotel/casino violates the corporate business model.

    That’s why casinos don’t have windows and clocks. That’s why they give free booze to players and pump pure oxygen into the casino.

    Not only will there be no urban development around that project but the development that is going on will die out.

    Go across the street from Hard Rock. It is pawn shops, gas stations and massage parlors.

    The promise that gambling would improve Atlantic was a fraudulent inducement. Step off the boardwalk and you better bring a Glock.

    New York recently approved a casino for Aquaduct racetrack. The Times reported that, even before it opened, local storefronts were being converted to pawn shops.

    Politicians like gambling because it brings revenue to their personal business—government.

    Why would a highroller get in his car to drive to South Beach to eat $50 worth of stone crabs at Joe’s when Genting will immediately serve it up to him for free?

    Yes, I am aware that Genting will bring construction and service jobs.

    So did Auschwitz.

    But we need to consider the social impact for society and not just the revenue stream for pols.

    All this said, I must admit that I am still torn about this because of a libertarian strain that says people should be able to do what they want with their money.

    At the same time I don’t buy the economic development bullshit being pushed by the gambling industries and their political flunkies like Steve Geller, ELLYN BOGDANOFF and ERIK FRAZEN

  5. TruthBTold says:

    Funny how Buddy allows his son’s boss to post propaganda on his website


    Most wouldn’t even know he was my son unless I revealed it. Most local media figures do not disclose the various interlocking relationships they have…

    That said, I was sent that op-ed piece along with dozens of other media outlets. I have no idea, nor do I care, whether any one else posted it.

    I don’t gamble. I don’t care about the casino project.

  6. Elroy John says:

    “No one has ever made the argument that more restaurants, bars, or liquor stores produce a greater number of alcoholics.”

    No one has ever made the argument that more bars and liquors stores produce more alcoholics. No one?! Really?!

    Chief among the several other ridiculous arguments within this article has to be the idea that while “we would like nothing more than to eliminate all gambling in our state,” since there’s already some gambling, let’s address the issue by building the most extravagant gambling oasis in the state.

  7. Serious ? says:

    So now we are comparing Genting to the Holocaust ?

  8. TEHO says:

    WARNING: You are going to get a really BIG surprise if Miami or South Florida gets those BIG casinos in the Destination Resort Bill. Do not make the same mistake in Miami or South Florida ! Please contact all your public government officials and tell them to vote NO against these BIG casinos ! If a Florida Gaming Commission is so important tell them to put it in a separate bill and not in the Destination Resort Bill.

    I was actually there in both Las Vegas, NV and Atlantic City, NJ working for the casinos during the 1970’s when the New Jersey politicians & New Jersey Gaming Commission and the Las Vegas casino executives & owners made a lot of BIG “promises” to the people in New Jersey and Atlantic City about improving their economy, housing and jobs. Guess what ? There is still slums and high unemployment in Atlantic City today ( 35+ years later ) while those million dollar casinos are making a lot of money.

    Where were State Sen. Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff and State Rep. Erik Fresen who are sponsoring the Destination Resort Bill 35+ years ago ? Why doesn’t State Sen. Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff and State Rep. Erik Fresen explain with specific details and numbers in black & white about what actually happened to Atlantic City, NJ ? They next need to explain with specific details and numbers in black & white about what should happen to Miami or South Florida ! If not … why not ?

    Plus, I would like to strongly suggest that everyone do a Google search for both Genting and Colin Au and please learn who they are and what they want to do in Miami. Here is an example: “ …. Genting also hired a slew of high-priced lobbyists and public-relations consultants. State lobbying disclosure forms list 23 lobbyists working for four different Genting entities. Its competitors are conducting somewhat quieter campaigns. Las Vegas Sands hired eight lobbyists, while Wynn Resorts Ltd., listed as Development Associates in state records, has hired four. Among the heavyweights Genting has enlisted are Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a former congressman, and Harkley Thornton, a close friend of Mr. Cannon, the House speaker. According to state records, the company also has contributed $186,000 to the Florida Republican Party, which controls the legislature and the governor’s office. .. “ Source: Wall Street Journal 11/29/11.