Having just announced a US$150 million expansion project for its casino in Coconut Creek, the Seminole Tribe of Florida is also looking beyond its reservation lands. If proposed resort casino legislation for Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, which could be presented to lawmakers as soon as tomorrow, gets the go-ahead in due course then the Seminoles are likely to put forward their own plans for a resort casino.
Such a proposal from the tribal gaming operators of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood and other venues in Florida may well create strong opposition, not least from the pari-mutuel gaming machine operators and others who believe some of the lucrative casino revenue should be available to non-tribal businesses. However, in some respects an outcome granting the Seminoles one of the three proposed casino resort licences could benefit Florida’s state budget.
Under the 20-year gaming compact finally agreed between the tribe and state, after protracted and hard-fought negotiations, Florida gets a guaranteed US$1 billion in the first five years. If resort casinos are allowed then the compact conditions are broken and Florida would lose billions in compact revenue from the Seminole casinos, unless a deal could be brokered.
Other casino operators already are lobbying hard for the state to grant resort casino licences. Apart from Malaysia’s Genting Group, which has purchased the land and published its project details, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands are said to be approaching property owners in South Florida. The pari-mutuel investors also may seek to expand their businesses and apply for casino resort status. Without doubt they will seek tax parity with casino resorts, where a 10% levy is suggested in place of the 35% presently paid.
It is estimated the local economy could benefit from around US$6 billion as well as thousands of employment opportunities if three resort casinos are built. The two identical bills to be released to the House and Senate will be discussed in the 2012 legislative session and many amendments will be made before any law is passed. Expanded gambling still has many vociferous opponents in Florida but unemployment is high and state finances overstretched, so many believe the time has never been better for getting new casino legislation approved. (E-10.06.11)
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