Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez could
soon be at odds with two major casino operators supporting his
re-election run in 2012. That's because a
pair of state bills that would pave the way for three destination
mega-resorts with full-scale casinos benefits one company while
freezing out the other firm.
Gimenez publicly supports Malaysian giant Genting's bid to bring a gambling resort downtown -- and he's taken thousands from the firm -- but the latest gambling bill in Tallahassee would help Genting at the expense of Magic City Casino, one of the mayor's long-time supporters.
Within days of beating former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina this past June 26, Gimenez was already twisting arms for campaign funds. Between July 1 and Sept. 30, the mayor raised half-a-million dollars for Common Sense Now, a political action committee Gimenez formed that conducts polls and runs ads on his behalf.
That included $10,000 apiece from Genting New York and West Flagler Associates. Genting New York is an affiliate of the Malaysian casino conglomerate that wants to build a multi-billion dollar resort with 8,400 slot machines and gaming tables on 13-plus acres of waterfront land that includes the existing site of the Miami Herald headquarters.
West Flagler is the holding company for Magic City Casino, the former dog track that currently operates slot machines and card games in the Flagami neighborhood of Miami.
Gimenez's backing of Genting will test his loyalty to the owners of Magic City Casino, Isadore Havenick and his mother Barbara, who two weeks ago co-chaired a fundraiser for Gimenez and who have shown an interest in expanding their gambling operation beyond Flagler Street.
That's because details emerged this week about Reps Erik Fresen and Ellyn Bogdanoff's bills to award exclusive gaming licenses at three South Florida locations. The bidders would have to pay $50 million for the right to compete for the licenses and would be judged on their ability to draw tourists from around the world.
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The new casinos would pay 10 percent tax on net revenues -- significantly less than the 35 percent tax rate currently charged to pari-mutuels like Magic City Casino, which already cannot compete with the deep pockets of Genting, the largest casino operator in southeast Asia.
Translation: If this bill passes, Magic City would have a hell of a tough time getting a license and an even tougher time surviving if it doesn't.
What's Carlos going to have to say about it? We'll soon find where his loyalties lie.