Florida Gov. Rick Scott's 30-page veto letter included several interesting tidbits, including this one -- offering his first public encouragement for the Legislature to consider expanded gaming. Scott vetoed the $400,000 for a comprehensive gaming study of the "revenues derived, the expenses incurred, and the potential benefits to Florida from destination resorts and horse racing" but the governor wasn't totally against the idea. On page 20 of the letter, he wrote:
“I am vetoing $400,000 for a gambling study. While I encourage the Legislature to make a comprehensive review of additional gaming, I believe it is important to have a full consideration of the positive economic impact, the costs that may result from this policy, and the impact on current gaming in our state. However, such a study at this time is an expense Florida taxpayers should not incur."
The Senate considered a bill to create a panel to accept bids from five regions of the state for resort-style casino gambling and, while the measure didn't pass, it got farther than it did the year before when it was just a concept.
Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Las Vegas-based Sands Resort empire, started the ball rolling when he commissioned a study in 2010 for legislators to show how much revenue could be made by bringing a resort casino and convention center to Florida. He has said he would be willing to invest as much as $3 billion on a casino resort in Miami.
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As we reported in January, Scott met with Adelson at the casino executive's Las Vegas office before he was inaugurated and, since the two-hour meeting, we are told they have kept in touch.
In addition to Sands, Wynn Resorts, also of Las Vegas, as well as Genting hired a stable of lobbyists to push the bill. All they got was the study, which Scott vetoed. (He also veted $537,000 for gambling addiction education and compulsive gambling treatment.)
Coincidentally or not, a day after Scott's encouraging words in his veto message, Asia’s third largest casino company announced it is paying $236 million for the 14 acres of waterfront land surrounding The Miami Herald.
Genting Malaysia Berhad said they plan only to build a resort, since casinos are not authorized yet, but indicated its interest in continuing a push for a full-fledged casino.
"Miami’s the crown jewel for this market-- everybody knows that,'' said Nick Iarossi, lobbyist for Sands. "Everybody is posturing and planning and hoping the legislature will make a decision to make destination resorts a reality.''
He said Sands is encouraged by Scott's veto message and welcomes the investment of Genting. "It's great for the effort,'' Iarossi said. "We welcome competition. The ultimate winner is Florida. The more competitive, the more spectacular the projects, the more revenues for the state. It shows that we’re all serious about this. They’ve definitely upped the ante and hopefully the legislature and the governor will take the effort seriously."