When is a casino not a casino?by Dara Kam | March 4th, 2011
When is a casino not a casino? When it’s billed as a “Destination Resort,” as Sens. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, and Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, have done in a press release announcing legislation that would expand gambling statewide in Florida.
Jones, chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee, and committee vice chairwoman Sachs, are sponsoring a bill that would allow five casinos -one in each part of the state – if local voters approve.
But their 692-word joint press release announcing the “Destination Resorts/Trade Shows” bill (SB 1708) mentions the word “casino” just twice, tucked way down in the details of the measure.
“The possibility of bringing Destination Resorts to Florida includes a host of economic benefits,” Sachs says in the release. “These benefits will manifest themselves in new jobs for our construction industry, tourism, beaches, hospitality, and trades. This new energy and excitement will bring us back to the days when Florida was a mecca for top-notch entertainment and a destination in itself.”
Their proposal would require a refundable $50 million application fee and a $1 million licensing fee and require casino owners to build a minimum of 500,000 square feet of meeting and convention space and at least 1,000 hotel rooms and limit casino space to 10 percent of the entire project.
“Our estimates show that these Destination Resorts will draw over 5 million new out of state visitors annually to Florida visiting the shops and restaurants in the resorts, while also visiting the restaurants, retail and attractions in the surrounding local community,” Jones said in the release.
Lawmakers have heard presentations from casino operators around the world eager to open shop in the Sunshine State, but any expansion of gambling would cost the state about $150 million it receives each year from the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
The legislature’s been chilly towards expanding gambling in the past.
But with the state treasury in the doldrums (and a looming $3.62 billion budget deficit), that may change.