Q & A with Rep. Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff

Executives from the Las Vegas Sands Group met with Florida legislators last week to pitch a series of integrated casino resorts for South Florida, specifically Miami-Dade and Broward. Fort Lauderdale Republican Rep. Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, once a self-described “ardent” opponent of gaming, acknowledges the potential economic impact of the proposal. Florida is now the fourth-largest gaming state in the nation, but the vast majority of it is controlled by what Bogdanoff sees as a monopoly by the Seminole Indian tribe. It is time for gaming change in Florida, and Bogdanoff thinks the Sands proposal could represent the way forward. The Real Deal spoke with Bogdanoff, who is now running for state Senate, about the proposal.

What did you think of the Sands group’s proposal?
If we’re going to be forced to expand gaming in the state to provide real competition to the Seminole resort, an integrated resort makes sense, it brings in a different type of business. We’re not looking to expand gaming, but it’s here — it’s now, so considering that we have had full-scale gaming forced upon us through the federal law, to provide a monopoly to the Seminole Indians exclusively would be hugely problematic to the state both economically and politically.  

What kind of money could the state see if this deal were to happen?
We had an economic impact study, and I think the jury’s out. But you do have people willing to come into this state and invest $2 billion in this facility — and that in and of itself is huge.

What are the main objections to this idea? Are they any different from previous proposals?
I think there are some people that simply don’t want to talk about gaming. They want it to go away. Very often it’s a lot of those folks in the Legislature, who don’t live in Broward, Palm Beach or Dade County, where we have gaming … I was one of the most ardent anti-gaming people in the House. I believed it didn’t need gaming as part of its attraction. But that horse has left the barn

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Is there a gaming monopoly by the Seminoles?
They do have a monopoly. They have it on expanded games. They’ve enjoyed it for two years, and enough is enough. We need to provide some true competition.

Have legislators considered the potential effect on real estate in southeast Florida?
I think intellectually, everybody understands that there is a high level of economic impact when you do something like this. When you create integrated resorts, attracting conventions, shopping, spas, people are coming to enjoy that type of facility, it’s not about gaming. Gaming becomes a component. We’re not a Las Vegas, we don’t want to be a Las Vegas, and we never will be a Las Vegas.

What is the potential time line?
I think obviously everything takes time, but you’re looking at at least two to three years, to set it up, to go through the permitting process. This is not something that will get done overnight.