Make us your home page
Instagram

Casino impact on state revenue touted at Senate hearing

TALLAHASSEE — The state Senate committee poised to take up a bill to bring casino gambling to Florida heard a report Tuesday on how 13 other states collected millions of dollars in revenue after opening their doors to traditional Las Vegas-style games.

Whether Florida is ready to become the next casino state is "too early to tell," said Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, chairman of the committee that heard the report authorized by Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Earlier this week, Haridopolos said he thinks there is a "50-50 chance" of the Legislature approving casino games this year.

Jones is sponsoring a bill to bring "destination casinos" to Florida. He said the legislation will be ready in about two weeks.

Under the plan, Florida would allow four to five casino resorts to bid for a chance to operate full casinos, including slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps. The bidders would pay a $50 million application fee and be offered an exclusive contract to operate the games, with the resorts at least 75 miles apart.

The report given to the committee found that Pennsylvania collected $1 billion in gambling revenue, more than neighboring New Jersey. State revenue in Louisiana, which feature riverboat casinos, top $500 million annually.

Some states impose bet limits; others restrict where casinos can be located. Pennsylvania imposes a 55 percent tax on its racinos and casinos, while Louisiana taxes its riverboats 21.5 percent, according to the report by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

The committee also heard from lobbyists for the Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resort Casinos Tuesday, who said they are interested in attracting tourists to Florida with promises of high-end retail and convention style casinos that would compete with Florida's horse and dog tracks as well as the seven casinos on the Seminole Tribe's seven reservations.

"We're hoping that there will be legislation put forward that will be conducive to us creating a model," said Andy Abboud, vice president of the Las Vegas Sands. He said his company wants to build a large-scale meeting and convention space with a retail, dining and entertainment complex with a "gaming component." As he showed photos of lavish resorts in Las Vegas, Singapore and Macau, he promised that Florida's resort would be ''spectacularly designed."

Jones emphasized that the draw of these resorts is that 90 percent of the property is focused on a massive convention center, shops and entertainment and "if we point out the 90 percent, not the 10 percent, we'd move farther ahead as far as jobs," he said, predicting there would be 5,000 to 7,000 jobs created at each of four proposed locations.

But while Jones is clearly sold on the destination resort idea, other committee members appeared more skeptical.

Sen. John Thrasher of St. Augustine, the outgoing chairman of Florida's Republican Party, asked the committee staff to prepare a report on the constitutionality of the Legislature approving casino games. A former lobbyist for the Jacksonville Kennel Club, Thrasher questioned the accuracy of a court ruling that said the state Constitution does not bar the Legislature from authorizing casinos. The ruling is under appeal, and Thrasher said he believes a constitutional amendment is needed before casinos can be built outside tribal land.

Opposition from the state's parimutuel industry, as well as from Orlando-based tourism attractions, is expected to be intense unless lawmakers find a way to give them additional options.

Jones said he's not worried about the impact of casino gambling on the state compact with the Seminole Tribe because the 20-year agreement is subject to review in five years. In that time, the tribe guarantees it will pay the state at least $1 billion.

"If we were looking at destination gaming, it would take four to five years to build one of those complexes out," Jones said. "It would not even impact the compact until the first card would play and that would be three or four years down the road and we're going on our second year of the compact. So that's really a non­issue at this point as far as I see it."

Casino impact on state revenue touted at Senate hearing 01/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 10:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks

    Business

    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday

    Business

    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes

    Transportation

    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.