Yesterday, Miami's largest business organization put its support behind destination casino resorts, which should please its new landlord. The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution to back the proposed state casino bill that might allow Malaysian-based Genting to turn the site of the Miami Herald and the Omni Mall into ultra-exclusive hotels, condos, restaurants, shops and gambling dens. Coincidentally, the chamber's office is located in the Omni.
However, Chamber President Barry Johnson assures Banana Republican that being Genting's tenant did not influence the group's decision. "We've had the same lease we entered into eight years ago," he says. "Nothing has changed. It's really about taking a proactive stance for the community."
Johnson also noted the Chamber's backing of casino resorts comes with some caveats:
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- The resorts would have to be approved by Miami-Dade voters in a referendum.
- The destination casinos should pay a comparable tax rate as existing parimutuels.
- Local governments would get a portion of the state's gambling revenues for public works projects in Miami.
- Seventy-five percent of the workforce must be from south Florida.
The casino bill will be one of the most closely watched items in the upcoming legislative session. One of the bill's authors, Ellyn Bogdanoff has already amended her first draft to cap a tax on all gambling revenues at 18 percent, which is opposed by at least one of the big casino companies, Las Vegas Sands Corp., according to the Miami Herald.
However, the blog Eye on Miami found an online resource that shows 18 other states tax casino operators more than 10 percent, which is what Bogdanoff originally proposed for the destination resort licenses. The blog also questioned the claims by Genting officials and supporters that three big casino hotels would create more than a 100,000 jobs based on employment figures from the other gambling states. For instance, Nevada - home to Las Vegas - has 256 casinos that only employ 175,000 people.