Governor Rick Scott said when he was running for governor that, although he was not proposing expansion of casino gambling in the Sunshine State, he had no moral objection to gambling. Before he was sworn in, he flew to Las Vegas to meet with Las Vegas Sands casino Chairman Sheldon Adelson to discuss the potential of casino gambling for Florida.
Although there is no evidence that Scott is pushing casino gambling as part of his efforts to get Florida’s economy moving and create jobs, it would be impossible for him not to be aware of the fact that temporary casino facilities and an extension of table games to the Dade and Broward pari-mutuels could produce at least 18,000 jobs before he runs for re-election.
Scott told one pari-mutuel vice president that any proposal to bring casinos to South Florida would have to demonstrate that it would more than replace the estimated billion dollars in revenue currently guaranteed to the State under 20 year Seminole compact.
While visiting Washington DC, Scott told a prominent Republican lobbyist that he would veto any casino proposal that he thought would cost Florida guaranteed revenues. He also said that the key to job creation in any expansion of gaming would depend on the tax rate. Those who know Scott say that he would be receptive to a casino gaming bill that would help kick-start Florida’s economy.
Kathleen M. Shanahan, former Chief of Staff to Governor Jeb Bush, and now a Governor Rick Scott appointee to the Florida State Board of Education, has been retained by a major casino company to push casino gambling in Florida. This is curious in view of the fact that Shanahan is persona non grata in the Scott Administration based on several actions she has taken at the State Board which have displeased Governor Scott and been contrary to Scott Administration policies.
Shanahan, the CEO of the consulting firm WRS Compass, which specializes in environmental management and civil construction company, has ties to both Former Vice President Dick Cheney and Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Shanahan was chief of staff for Cheney during the 2000 Presidential campaign and transition. She later became chief of staff for Jeb Bush. Shanahan was also appointed to Florida’s State Board Of Education by Gov. Charlie Crist and re-appointed by Scott.
Kathleen Shanahan was Jeb Bush’s chief of staff when we learned that our teachers’ retirement system had overcharged the federal government by $517 million in contributions to the fund. On April 15, the day an audit was to commence, Shanahan made a call to Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s daughter that halted the audit until after Jeb Bush was all through his 2002 election. In fact, the audit was delayed three times before Jeb’s election.
The audit eventually concluded that Florida did overcharge the federal government and, according to a report of the audit findings, federal officials have recommended that Florida repay the excess contributions or accept reduced future federal contributions to the pension fund until the overcharge is made up. Eyebrows are being raised over reports that Shanahan has a major casino company paying her.
Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, whose company, Las Vegas Sands, attempted to pass a casino gaming bill in Florida last year, told an investor conference call on September 21 that Florida was an unlikely target for Las Vegas Sands.
Adelson said he will pursue a development in Miami only if the state created one casino in Miami-Dade County with a required $2 billion investment. Pummeled with questions about Asian Casino giant Genting in the investor conference call, Adelson said he will not compete with them if there were multiple licenses and is looking instead at Massachusetts and future expansion in Asia.
Adelson was the guest of Governor Rick Scott at the FOX Florida Republican Debate. Adelson continued to push his plan for a casino monopoly which would not extend table games to the seven pari-mutuels currently entitled to operate slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.
The casino mogul met privately with legislators in Orlando, but Representative Erik Fresen (R- Miami-Dade) plans to move ahead with a three-resort destination casino bill in the next week. Although Fresen told the Clarion that the bill would allow for a temporary casino facility at the Omni Center, Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff, who is expected to carry the bill in the Senate, said that was not the case.
Genting, the $45 billion casino giant, has really demonstrated its commitment to bringing a world-class casino to South Florida. The company doubled down when it acquired the Omni Center from real estate investors Sergio Rok, Jorge Perez, and Jimmy Tate for $206 million.
The Omni is next to the land recently purchased from the Miami Herald. The Omni’s investors made it clear to Genting that they planned to compete for a casino license and that they were confident the state would approve it because the Omni wouldn’t need any new construction and could generate revenues sooner. Genting moved swiftly to acquire the Omni site.
Genting intends for the “decorat0r ready” Omni property to become the first stage of Resorts World Miami, a temporary casino to begin generating revenue to the state while their permanent casino is being built. Genting hopes to open a world-class casino on the Miami Herald site with restaurants, bars, and entertainment facilities within a year after they are granted a license. The acquisition of Omni makes the Genting proposal even stronger.
Rumor had it was that Rok and company were talking to the Seminoles about having Hard Rock brand their casino. Genting, which is looking to create an iconic and high-end $3 billion casino resort, couldn’t have a Hard Rock next-door.
Artie Falcone – who owns the dwindled property on the other side of Genting’s Miami property – tried to make the same play as the Omni’s investors, in hopes that the Asian casino group would buy him out at a premium price. But his property is no longer suitable for a casino, as banks took away the frontage properties of his on Biscayne Blvd. in foreclosure. His site two blocks west of Biscayne Boulevard is roughly half of what it had been, and he lost the key strategic parcels.
Falcone had been in talks with Las Vegas Sands and Steve Wynn, but both concluded that Falcone’s land was too small for a casino that could compete with Resorts World Miami. Genting
Kim Sinatra, general counsel for casino magnate Steve Wynn, has been scouting casino locations in Florida. Wynn is, of course, intently interested in the destination gambling resort legislation likely to come out of the state legislature.
Sinatra has looked at Gulfstream, the Diplomat, and the Doral country club as potential sites. An experienced lobbyist on the federal, state, and local level, Sinatra is Wynn’s closest advisor and the only woman in the hunt.
Smart, tough, and underestimated, Sinatra will be intimately involved in Wynn’s efforts to obtain a gambling license in Florida. In 2009, Sinatra earned more than $10 million in compensation – putting her at number 15 on CNNMoney’s list of the 25 highest-paid women
executives reportedly scoffed at Falcone’s threats.
Current casino revenues must be more than replaced to be viable.
South Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson, whose organization opposed the Destination Casino Resort Legalization sponsored by Senator Dennis Jones (R- Seminole) in the last session of the Florida Legislature, said the SFTP would evaluate any upcoming proposals to legalize casino gambling in Florida “to ensure that Florida taxpayers get maximum benefit.”
“We in the Tea Party are not necessarily social conservatives,” said Wilkinson. “We are fiscal conservatives interested in what is best for Florida taxpayers as the state contemplates casino gambling.”
“Florida has guaranteed twenty years of revenues – a projected $6 billion from slot machines under the state’s compact with the Seminole Indian Tribe,” said Wilkinson, who heads the state’s largest Tea Party group. “We also have millions more from the seven pari-mutuel tracks in Dade and Broward. Any expansion of casino gambling in Florida must not jeopardize or, in the case of the Indians, must more than replace these revenues.”
Wilkinson pointed out that the Seminoles compact provides for exclusivity when it comes to slot machines and requires that the rate of current payments to the state for certain table games must be renegotiated after five years, Payments to the state from the Seminoles could cease or be decreased depending on how and when Florida legalized casinos.
“We think it is vitally important that Florida maximize this opportunity by adopting a proposal that is limited to South Florida and subject to local referendum. The local voters must approve a casino in their back yard,” said Wilkinson” The South Florida Tea Party SFTP will fight any proposal that does not have a local county vote.”
DJ Thorne, Chairwoman of the Tea Party-Miami , and active tea party group in Miami-Dade backed Wilkinson’s claim. “ Our Senators and State Reps know we insist on a local vote, a local referendum before anything opens here” she said.
Wilkinson said the Tea Party will act to oppose any plan that does not also protect revenues from parimutuel racetracks as well as Seminole Indian Tribe” said Wilkinson. “We want to see something additive” he said.
The South Florida Tea Party generated over 1.6 million emails and faxes in opposition to the Jones Casino resort bill last year. The South Florida Tea Party has gained over 216,000 members since then and is considered the largest and most technologically proficient grassroots Tea Party organization in Florida.
Wilkinson quickly won the opposition to the bill from House Republican Speaker Dean Cannon, who sent the signal that he opposed the Jones bill. “Dean Cannon is really the one guy in Tallahassee with the guts to stand up for the taxpayers,” Wilkinson told the Clarion.
“We will support Governor Scott if he decides to expand Casino Gambling” said Wilkinson, a former US Marine whose Tax Day Rally in Boca featuring Donald Trump was attended by over 5,000 supporters.
“We are for open competition and the best deal for Florida” said Wilkinson. “We will be watching carefully.”
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