Bills Would Allow Destination Casinos in Miami, Concentrate Gambling in South Florida

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Advocates of bringing resort-style casinos to Miami-Dade and Broward counties are preparing to roll the dice once again this legislative session. Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, introduced an ambitious package of gaming bills today that would pave the way for two destination casinos in the counties.

The bills would also allow racinos, or greyhound tracks with other gambling activities, to drop greyhound racing and basically operate as stand-alone slots casinos. The package also seeks to lessen gaming in North Florida and concentrate gambling in the southern part of the state.

Young serves as the House majority leader and was tasked last month by Speaker

Steve Crisafulli to tackle gambling issues. She's taken the issues seriously, with a fresh and possibly controversial approach announced the day before the session officially begins.

Destination-style casinos would have to buy up existing gambling permits in order to operate. (The idea being that they would buy those permits from facilities outside of South Florida.) They would be required to make a $2 billion investment in property and would be required to pay at least $175 million a year each in taxes regardless of income.

A local referendum would also have to be put in front of voters in Miami-Dade and Broward to even allow the casinos.

Furthermore, only 10 percent of the total property of the resort could be used for gaming.

The bill would also allow for race tracks in Palm Beach and Lee County to operate slot machines, and would create a system that would encourage gaming interests to close their operations in North Florida in exchange for expansion in the southern part of the state.

The bill would also establish a new statewide gaming commission.

The big hitch: there's no companion in the Senate, and so far that body's gaming bills have been much more modest.

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