TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Legislation to allow Vegas-style resorts in South Florida has been filed in Tallahassee. The bill is a gamble for state lawmakers because expanding gaming could mean all bets are off with the Seminal Tribe, which pays the state $150 million dollars a year for exclusive rights to some games.
The 140-page bill lays out strict guidelines for casino companies looking to roll the dice in Florida. The legislation would allow three casinos to open Vegas-style resorts in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
One company, Genting Malaysia, is already betting it will pass, and is buying land in Miami and designing a resort.
But Genting isn’t the only player with money in the middle. Stakes are also high for the state.
In 2010, a compact spearheaded by former Governor Charlie Crist gave the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to blackjack and other Class III games. In exchange, the Seminole tribe is giving Florida a billion dollars in installments through 2015.
If the bill is passed and the gaming resorts are only approved for Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the tribe might scale back its contribution, but if casinos are allowed in other parts of the state the compact is void.
Broward and Miami-Dade already allowed Vegas-style slots when the compact was signed, so an expansion there may not be a complete violation to the agreement.
But even if the tribe stops paying the state, the new resorts might offset some of the lost revenue. The legislation requires a $50 million dollar application fee and a two billion dollar investment, plus jobs.
“Each location will have between five and seven-thousand permanent jobs,” said Senate Regulated Industries chairman Dennis Jones.
The legislation limits the space the casino resorts can use for gaming. Only 10 percent of the resort can host games, the rest will be dedicated to hotel rooms and convention space. The Senate president has already promised an up or down vote on the issue in his chamber. The legislation will be a harder sell in the House.
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