Miami Businessman Criticizes Bill Which Includes a Miami-Dade County Casino

Miami-Dade County Casino - Galvano Diaz Genting Las Vegas Sands

Genting Group once bought the Miami Herald Building to build a casino on the lot.

Miami business leaders are opposed to a plan to bring a brick-and-mortar casino to Miami-Dade County. Opponents of the casino plan say state lawmakers slipped the plan into a new bill with almost no public discussion.

Armando Codina, a local real estate developer with Codina Partners out of Coral Gables, is one of the most outspoken critics of the plan. When Codina heard about a plan to put a casino in the Miami area, he thought it was a bad idea on several levels. He also questioned the fact no one seems to have known a Miami-Dade County gaming venue was in the works.

Codina, who once was a business partner of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, referred to State Rep. Felix Diaz and State Sen. Bill Galvano when he said, “I’m well-informed, but this surprised me how it was snuck in without any public debate. These guys are going to send casino money to Tallahassee and leave us with all the infrastructure issues and all the social issues that come with it.

“Voting for Something Without Understanding”

Discussing the quick decision making after two days of negotiation in a special committee, Mr. Codina said, “They are voting for something without any understanding of the impact and without any idea of where the money is going to go. It’s a crime being perpetrated on the City of Miami.

The Florida gambling deal between Galvano and Diaz includes a number of different proposals, including decoupling casino gambling from dog/horse racing in the state, as well as adding designated player games, roulette, and craps in various gaming venues across the state. There is some discussion of adding slots to 8 different counties, though that is still being negotiated.

Miami-Dade County Casino

What alarmed Armando Codina and other Miami business people is a stipulation to add a brick-and-mortar casino in Miami-Dade County. People were so certain that a South Florida casino was impossible that Sheldon Adelson, one of the 20 richest people in the world, pulled out his lobbyists from Florida, after years of lobbying for such a gaming venue. If Adelson thought a Miami casino was in the works, he likely would have spent a million or two to lobby the Florida legislature.

The Miami-Dade County casino venture would have some limitations, but those limitations are not much of an onus. The casino could not be within 5 miles of a pari-mutuel racetrack. It would have to purchase and surrender to the state at least one pari-mutuel wagering license. It would have to go through a competitive procurement process (a licensing process), similar to what has been seen in Massachusetts and New York State over the past few years.

1500 Slot Machines Included

Along with those limitations, the Miami casino would have several advantages. First, it would house 1,500 slot machines, which drive 65% to 70% of all casino revenues. It also would have a cardroom with designated player games.

That would be substantially what Las Vegas Sands Corp and Genting Group lobbied for years to get. The two giant casino companies once were rumored to be receiving South Florida casino licenses. Genting, which is building the largest casino in the history of Las Vegas at a $4.1 billion cost, even bought the old Miami Herald building in order to have land for a casino.

Genting and Las Vegas Sands in the Bidding?

Now, it appears that Felix Diaz and Bill Galvano have slipped in a casino to their statewide gambling bill that would invite Genting and LVS (and others) back into the state — this time for a licensing process for one lone casino license in Miami-Dade County.

Armando Codina says the deal is good for a single gaming operator and the Florida treasury, but not good for Miami’s business community or the City of Miami. Mr. Codina says that such an operation would hurt the area when it came to luring non-gaming corporations.

Corporations Avoid Casino Sites

Mr. Codina said he has built corporate headquarters for major brands like IBM, Office Depot, Baccardi, and Ryder Trucks. He said none of those corporations “wants to be in a place with all the social issues gambling brings….With what’s happening on the beach and what’s happened on Brickell, speaks for itself. For these legislators to talk about casino gaming without telling the public where this is going to go, is irresponsible.”

The developer gave the current Florida governor some advice. Codina told Gov. Rick Scott, “If the governor is going to run for the [U.S.] Senate, he has to think through this. The message for the governor is this is going to be put on his lap and his legacy is going to be casino gambling.

He added this is not a business issue for him, though. Armando Codina said it is about the Miami’s social fabric. He said, “This is for my grandchildren.

Disney Company in Opposition to Miami Casino?

Whether the group can lobby to have the casino measure taken out of the bill is another matter. Codina and his associates likely will have powerful allies. Not only do religious groups, parents groups, and problem gambling groups oppose casinos. So does the Disney Company, which argued a few years back that an expanded gambling economy hurts Florida tourism, because worldwide tourists see Florida as a family-friendly vacation spot, due to Disneyworld and the beaches of the state.