The Real Deal Miami

Legislators, casinos try capitalizing on poor economy to bring gambling to South Florida

September 13, 2011 04:11PM

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From left: Rep. Erik Fresen, Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and the Miami Herald headquarters

If gambling firm Genting’s $236 million bet on Miami’s casino future is ever going to pay off, now might be the time. The St. Petersburg Times reported that Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami) and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Fort Lauderdale) will unveil their legislation to allow Genting and others to bid on three licenses to bring resort-style casinos to South Florida in the next two weeks.

The idea is gaining more traction than ever before thanks to the region’s economic difficulties. “If we weren’t in double-digit unemployment and a receding economy, I don’t think there would be much appetite for this bill but, in this environment, it’s almost an obligation to discuss it,” Fresen said.

But many believe the odds are still long. Disagreements among potential casino developers, pushback from the Seminole tribe that pays $250 million a year to keep competitors out and a reluctance to support open gambling all stand in the bill’s way.

In May, Genting bought the Miami Herald’s 13.9-acre headquarters, which is well-suited for a casino. [St. Petersburg Times]