The Real Deal Miami

Casinos could prove costly to Miami’s thriving tourism industry

January 13, 2012 02:15PM

A plane at Miami International Airport

A major selling point for the developers lobbying to bring casino resorts to downtown Miami is the boost it would provide to hotels, restaurants and other staples of the tourism industry.

But the Miami Herald questions whether the costs of legalizing gambling are really worth whatever benefit it may offer to a vacation industry that just posted its best year ever despite the recession. Miami hotel room revenue rose 14 percent in 2011, the third largest gain in the nation, and hotel tax revenue skyrocketed 29 percent even after a strong 2010.

The Herald said the gambling industry could double the supply of hotel rooms in the city, and while the casino resorts are guaranteed good revenue from gamblers, their arrival places downward pressure on prices for existing hotels.

“If you are in the gaming business and the rooms business, the gaming business wins and you give the rooms away,’’ said Michael Depatie, CEO of Kimpton Hotels, which runs the 411-room Epic hotel about 10 blocks from the proposed Sands site. “That is a threat to any hotel.”

Proponents of Genting and Las Vegas Sands’ plans argue that gambling is the one component lacking in Miami’s bid to become the top convention destination and covet the jobs the developers promise. For example, Genting said its plan for Restorts World Miami would provide for 19,000 jobs, which on its own would shrink the county’s unemployment rate to 8.8 percent from 10.2 percent under current conditions, according to the Herald. [Miami Herald]