Monday, June 18, 2018
Business

PAC exploring putting casino gambling on ballot linked to Malaysian developer Genting Group

TALLAHASSEE — Genting Group appears to be intensifying its push to allow voters to make the final decision on whether Las-Vegas style gambling comes to South Florida.

Recently released financing reports show a political action group linked to the Malaysia-based conglomerate is spending big on an apparent campaign to get voters to approve a constitutional amendment in favor of resort-style casinos.

The gaming giant failed to win legislative approval from lawmakers earlier this year, despite spending millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions. Now a Genting-linked political committee — New Jobs and Revenue For Florida — is directing funds toward a potential 2014 voter petition drive, which could offer an alternative path to accomplishing the goal of building multibillion-dollar casino resorts in South Florida.

"New Jobs and Revenue for Florida is an exploratory effort to consider whether or not there are ways to have more entertainment options in Florida," said committee spokesperson Brian Hughes.

State campaign finance records show that two Jamaica, N.Y.-based companies affiliated with Genting — Bayfront 2011 Development LLC, and Resorts World Miami LLC — gave the political action committee a total of $605,500 between April 11 and May 16.

Records also show the political action committee spent nearly $600,000 in the last three months on voter-petition consultants, constitutional scholars and pollsters who have worked for Gov. Rick Scott.

The spending included $50,000 to Nation Voter Outreach, a Nevada-based political consulting firm that, according to its website, specializes in "organizing signature drives to qualify issues and candidates for the ballot."

Genting also directed $200,000 to Bruce Rogow, a constitutional scholar and Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer who worked on the 2004 constitutional amendment approving slots in South Florida. Another $350,000 went to Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates, a political consulting company headed up by Scott's strategist, Tony Fabrizio.

Genting's Miami-based subsidiary stopped short of saying a petition drive was in the works.

"Our contribution to New Jobs and Revenue for Florida is simply one more example of our commitment to exploring how to enhance entertainment and hospitality choices here," Resorts World Miami spokesman Corey Tilley said in a statement on Friday.

But critics of casino gaming said it's clear that Genting is trying to take the issue directly to voters in 2014.

"This is the first time that Genting's true ambitions are being revealed," said Dan Gelber, a former Democratic state senator from Miami Beach. "And they're trying to get a change to the state Constitution."

Brad Swanson of the Florida Chamber of Commerce called the push for a constitutional amendment an assault.

The chamber, a powerful business group in Tallahassee, came out strongly against Genting's plans during this year's legislative session.

In Florida, an organization has to get signatures from 8 percent of the voters in the last presidential election in order to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. After completing that hurdle, a proposal must be approved by 60 percent of the voters in order to become law.

Recent polls show strong support for casino gambling in South Florida, but plenty of skepticism in other parts of the state.

Three other times when casino initiatives made it onto the ballot — in 1978, 1986 and in 1994 — voters blocked the effort. Slots in Miami-Dade and Broward counties were approved in 2004.

"Florida voters have seen this issue before and they have rejected it consistently," said Swanson. "We believe the Florida voters are smart on issues such as gambling and ultimately they'll make the right decision."

Genting has said the luxury casinos would bring billions of dollars of revenue into the state and help jump-start the economy with thousands of new jobs.

"Job creation and expanding economic opportunity for the people of Florida are goals we are proud to support," said Tilley.

Miami Herald reporter Elaine Walker contributed to this article. Toluse Olorunnipa can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @ToluseO

Comments
Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

An Orlando private equity firm has purchased lease-to-own business Rent-A-Center in a deal valued at more than $1 billion.Vintage Capital Management put a bid in for the company on Friday: $15 per share, $1 per share above its previous offer. Rent-A-...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

One of Florida’s biggest draws is also one if its biggest liabilities — its coastline. A new report projects that Florida is at the greatest risk of any state for tidal flooding caused by rising sea levels. And Tampa Bay faces some of the greatest ri...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Mazzaro’s gets ready to reopen

Mazzaro’s gets ready to reopen

day after an electrical fire broke out in its dry goods warehouse Friday night.Dominic Horwath, a grocery manager at Mazzaro’s on 22nd Ave. N, said staffers spent Monday and the weekend moving things into other warehouses.The damage from the fire at ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Mazzaro’s market set to reopen Tuesday after blaze damaged one of its warehouses

Mazzaro’s market set to reopen Tuesday after blaze damaged one of its warehouses

ST. PETERSBURG — Mazzaro’s Italian Market is scheduled to reopen Tuesday after an electrical fire broke out its dry goods warehouse Friday night.Dominic Horwath, a grocery manager at Mazzaro’s on 22nd Avenue N said staff spent Monday and the weekend...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Developer Grady Pridgen buys St. Pete’s shuttered Edward White Hospital

Developer Grady Pridgen buys St. Pete’s shuttered Edward White Hospital

ST. PETERSBURG — Edward White Hospital, closed four years ago because of declining revenues, has been sold to developer Grady Pridgen for $2.7 million.Pridgen could not be reached Monday for comment. City officials said he has submitted plans for rem...
Published: 06/18/18

Hernando Business Digest for June 22

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITAL RECEIVES AWARD: Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill was the recipient of Healthgrades 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award, a designation that recognizes superior performance of hospitals that have prevented the occurrence...
Published: 06/18/18
Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITALS RECEIVE AWARD: Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Medical Center of Trinity were recipients of Healthgrades 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award, a designation that recognizes superior performance of hospitals t...
Published: 06/18/18
Tampa Bay gas prices keep falling

Tampa Bay gas prices keep falling

The summer reprieve in gas prices is continuing.After flirting near the $3 mark, Tampa Bay gas prices fell another six cents a gallon over the past week to an average of $2.65 for unleaded, a wide gap with the national average of $2.91 a gallon, acco...
Published: 06/18/18
Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

SAN FRANCISCO - The cold, steely arm of Fernando the Barista swirled the foam of my matcha latte, set it down gently, and waved goodbye from inside a glass case. San Francisco, 2018. Where you can get robot pizza and robot salad, and now, a robot mat...
Published: 06/16/18
Riverview’s commercial real estate prices rise as community booms

Riverview’s commercial real estate prices rise as community booms

RIVERVIEW — The basic economic principle of supply and demand defines Riverview’s current struggle with commercial real estate.With a lack of available affordable commercial properties and a booming population, demand currently exceeds supply in Rive...
Published: 06/15/18
Updated: 06/18/18