Resort-Style Casinos Coming to Florida?

A bill is set to be filed in the Florida legislature that could lead to destination resort-casinos in the state. If the bill passes, it could mean billions of dollars a year in revenue.

It's lucky sevens all around for advocates of Vegas-style resort-casinos in Florida.

With a high-profile court ruling, Miami republican Erik Fresen says he's prepared to file a bill that would create a gaming commission. It would have the power to shut down operations like internet cafes but encourage massive new projects.

"What the decision [Thursday] also said was that the legislature does have the authority to create these type of destination resorts," Rep. Fresen said. "Had the decision gone the other way, it may have been a moot point to even file the bill."

The bill would let the commission issue licenses for multi-billion dollar resort-casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. If things pan out, lawmakers could opt to expand licensing statewide.

There's bound to be moral opposition to expanding gaming, but there may be an even bigger problem. Four years ago, Florida gave the Seminole tribe the exclusive right to run Vegas-style games.

Allowing new companies to come in would void that compact, and the Seminoles wouldn't have to keep paying the state billions in shared revenue. That's why tribe attorney Barry Richard is blasting the new bill, saying his clients are perfectly happy to talk about building lavish new casinos on their own and cut Florida an even bigger check.

"Why would you go elsewhere when you have a local, home-grown group in the state of Florida that will keep the money in Florida, instead of upstreaming it to another state?" Richard said. "It just makes sense to deal with the tribe."

Lobbying hard for the right to build new resort casinos is the Las Vegas Sands corporation. They argue they have the most experience in undertaking the projects and that could pay off for the state in even more revenue.

This is the second year in a row legislation's been filed to authorize resort-casinos. Last time around, a bill didn't emerge until late in the legislative session. This time, supporters say they're better prepared to get something passed.

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