Controversy Continues Over Resort-Style Casinos in Florida

It's a gamble on gambling, and the payoff could be tens-of-thousands of new jobs.

That's what these industry leaders are all but promising if lawmakers approve a bill to build three giant resort casinos in south Florida.

Gary Reifert made the trek all the way from Broward Ccounty, where he says his limousine company is falling on hard times.

"The thing that bothers me the most is every time something comes up like this, everybody says, 'Well, those aren't high-paying jobs, they're not high-tech jobs', but not everybody qualifies for those high-tech jobs and we need to put these people back to work," Reifert said.

Under the bill, the casino operators would have to pump at least $2 billion into construction. That could mean plenty of work for contractors who desperately need it.

That's on top of all the permanent jobs that would come after the casinos open, but the campaign to get the bill passed hasn't been free of controversy.

The gaming executives behind it have rubbed many lawmakers the wrong way, and Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson is leading a high-profile effort to defeat the legislation, predicting mega casinos would drive tourism away from our signature theme parks.

"This will cost jobs," he said. "This will cost communities' economic development. This has never worked in places like Nevada and places like Atlantic City. This is a bad bet for Florida's future, and we look forward to the conversation."

It's a conversation the plan's backers argue has been underway for years - look no further than the Hard Rock.

"Gambling's in Florida," said Matt Dupree of the Florida Retired Workers' Association. "We're already here, so we're not quite sure what the holdup is."

Even the anti-casino crowd expects the bill to make it all the way to an up-or-down vote, but keep your eye on Governor Scott. He's made it very clear he doesn't want the state budget tied to the new revenue that would come from expanded gaming.

Economists say three new resort casinos could generate as much as $250 million a year in sales tax, but Florida could lose out on the $150 million it gets each year under a compact with the Seminole tribe. That compact would be broken if new competitors are allowed to operate in the state.


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