Gambling resorts could transform South Florida, report says
South Florida could join the “major leagues of casino gambling” and see a huge economic boost if the state allows full-scale resort casinos, according to the draft of a long-awaited report on the future of gambling in Florida.
The opening of two major gambling resorts in Broward and Miami-Dade counties could generate about $1 billion in taxable gambling revenue per year and create 7,618 full-time jobs, under one scenario analyzed in a report to the state Legislature by Spectrum Gaming Group.
Building on the existing attractions of beaches, fishing, shopping and sunshine, these resorts would allow the region to draw high-rollers capable of dropping thousands at the tables and then spending thousands more at hotels, restaurants and boutiques.
“The state could immediately become a major international competitor for the ultra-high-end traveler who includes casino gambling as part of his/her entertainment experience,” the report states. “In this regard, Florida could compete with Las Vegas, Macau and other world-class casino markets for the highest-stakes players.”
Spectrum looked at 12 scenarios in its 464-page report, ranging from only slots and pari-mutuels to statewide destination casinos. If a single casino went up in South Florida, for example, either in Broward or Miami-Dade counties, the impact would be reduced, with about 3,000 jobs created in Broward or 4,751 in Miami-Dade.
The study was commissioned by the state Legislature after lawmakers put off highly controversial, heavily lobbied decisions on whether the state should become a world destination for blackjack, baccarat, slots and roulette.
Senate and House leaders on Tuesday extended the deadline for the final version of the report to Nov. 1 after state economists raised questions about the statistical models used in the study.
There are seven pari-mutuels in Broward and Miami-Dade counties with slots, and an eighth, Dania Entertainment Center, has plans to offer them by the end of the year. There are also eight tribal casinos, seven of which are operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd. and MGM Resorts International have all expressed interest in adding casinos in South Florida, with Malaysian entertainment giant Genting Group buying the old Miami Herald property on Biscayne Bay in hopes of building a casino hotel.
But opponents of expanded gambling, including Disney, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, religious conservatives and some smaller casinos, fought their plans. In 2011 lawmakers rejected a proposal for Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida and last year put off the matter for further study.
If the entire state is opened up to casinos, the report says they would be a relatively small part of each region’s economy. Under the most expansive scenario analyzed, there would be 33 casinos in 19 counties, generating an additional 16,097 jobs and $2.6 billion in spending.
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