Making the News

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Originally Published:Thursday, April 2, 2009,0,1512834.story

Florida House opposed to any expansion of gambling
Senate wants to increase offerings; House is opposed

By Robert Nolin
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Talk in the state Legislature about expanding gambling in Broward and Miami-Dade counties can conjure up a thrilling James Bond-like scenario:

Gentlemen with starched cuffs finger roulette chips as they ponder their next bet. Well-coiffed ladies in daring decolletage purse their lips and elegantly blow on the dice before testing their luck at craps. Swank casinos in beachside hotels spill glamour and glitter into the night as South Florida evolves into the next Monte Carlo.

Except it ain't gonna happen.

"No, no and no," said former Democratic state Sen. Steve Geller, who served 10 years as president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States. "No legislation has been heard in any committee of the Legislature that would do that."
What has been proposed in the state Senate is that the Seminole Tribe's seven casinos - Broward has three - be allowed to add craps and roulette to their gambling roster, putting them on a par with Las Vegas casinos. In return, the tribe would pay $400 million annually to the state.

The bill also would allow South Florida's dog tracks, horse tracks and jai-alai frontons to add blackjack to its Las Vegas-style slot machines.

Trouble is, the Florida House - deferring to a more conservative constituency, Geller said - is adamantly opposed to any gambling. The odds of those lawmakers agreeing to radically expand gambling in South Florida are about as good as your parakeet picking the daily trifecta at Gulfstream Park.

"There is absolutely no chance whatsoever that the Senate bill will pass," Geller states.

And even if the Senate bill did somehow make it through the Legislature and be signed into law byGov. Charlie Crist, locally it would only affect the Seminoles' two casinos in Hollywood and another inCoconut Creek.

"It only applies to casino gaming at the tribal locations," said Dan Adkins, vice president of Mardi GrasGaming in Hallandale Beach. "Would you have beachside casinos? Would the Diplomat be a casino? Would the Fontainebleau? No."

Adkins said South Florida had its chance to evolve into a casino destination if all forms of gambling had been permitted a generation ago.

"Thirty years ago we probably could have had Monte Carlo. We could have had all that development here," he said. "That ship has sailed. It's gone."

Still, Adkins is hoping area parimutuels will be granted some expanded gambling by this year's session of the Legislature. "Right now we're just getting pummeled from the tribe," he said.

In a what-if world, South Florida could more resemble a county in Nevada. Huge hotel complexes could feature full-bore gambling - but only on property already owned by the Seminoles. Kind of like a Vegas in the tropics, but off the beaten path.

Even so, specialists say South Florida's yacht basins won't be crowded anytime soon with international high rollers making port calls.

Letting the Seminoles set up craps and roulette tables won't make much of a difference to the region's economic scene, said Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, which analyzes gambling markets.

"Will the addition of new table games to the Seminole Hard Rock change the nature of South Florida for gaming to become a dominant industry? I don't think so," Pollock said from his office outside Atlantic City. "Will someone fly to Florida to play craps there? Probably not."

While the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has become a gambling destination, it's not in South Florida's tourism DNA to draw the high-rolling gambling crowd. "It's not who we are," said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Monte Carlo is kind of a playground for millionaires who go there to gamble. No one is going to come here strictly to gamble."

Visitors come to South Florida for the totality of what the area has to offer: sunshine, the beaches, night life, water sports and golf, Grossman said. Enhanced gambling would become part of that mix, not supplant it.

"It will add to our amenities, but it will not turn us into a gaming destination," she said. "It adds an attraction and it might add an additional night on someone's stay."

There's one other minor detail to bar South Florida from ever achieving Monte Carlo-esque status, Grossman joked.

"If we become Monte Carlo," she said, "someone's going to have to be the princess."

Robert Nolin can be reached at or 954-356-4525.

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