Asian gambling giant gets foothold on US terrain


Asian gambling giant gets foothold on US terrain
Related NewsAsian gambling giant gets foothold on U.S. terrain

“HIGHER PROPENSITY TO GAMBLE”

Opposition by some lawmakers, who strongly oppose high-stakes gambling, could still pose a daunting obstacle to the liberalization of Florida’s gaming laws.

“It’s going to be a very complicated regulatory and political environment for it to move forward,” said Michael Paladino, a gambling analyst with Fitch Ratings in New York.

He said exclusivity provisions in the state gaming agreement with the Seminoles were one complicating factor. But Representative Dennis Baxley, a Republican from Ocala, Florida, said there were also longstanding ethical questions about gambling in the traditionally conservative southern state, along with doubts about the economic underpnnings of gaming.

“If this is such a golden apple for us to latch onto why isn’t Nevada leading the country in economic health,” said Baxley. “No one has a bigger destination gambling model than Nevada and look at their financial condition.”

Warwick Bartlett, chief executive of UK-based Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, said hard economic times could work in the gambling industry’s favor, however.

“When you have a recession and a state needs dollars, tax dollars, that normally loosens up people’s attitude, politicians’ attitude, toward gambling and deregulating what they have,” Bartlett said.

Even without the speedy passage of new gaming legislation, analysts said there was little risk attached to Genting’s purchase of a prime Miami waterfront site.

The land deal follows recently announced plans by Hong Kong-based Swire Properties to pour $700 million into the construction of a new urban center on the south side of the Miami River, not far from Genting’s property.

The influx of Asian capital could soon raise the profile of Miami as a draw for tourists from China and Southeast Asia, including many gamblers.

“It would broaden the tourist scope of the state.” Bartlett said. “If you had the choice, Las Vegas or Florida to gamble, I think I’d go to Florida. Wouldn’t you?”

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