Casinos' Chances In Florida May Come Down To Jobs

Miami casinos jobsMIAMI (AP) -- Sun-drenched Miami has beaches, South Beach nightspots, a new stadium for the Miami Marlins and athletic superstars like LeBron James.

But nearly 300,000 people there are out of work after hard hits from the recession and the collapse of Florida's real estate market.

Now, some big-money backers are touting a new attraction that promises to boost jobs: Casinos.

They argue Miami can become a shimmering East Coast version of Las Vegas, generating a spark for the state's stalled economy. Miami's selling points, they argue, could help the area transform itself into a serious rival to Vegas.

Malaysia-based Genting Group, which runs a massive casino in Singapore, is so sure about the possibility that it has already spent nearly a half-billion dollars to acquire property in downtown Miami. The group has ambitious plan to alter the Miami skyline with a sprawling $3.8 billion complex designed to look like coral.

That sounds good to people like Michael Ferrarelli, who right now just has a part-time job at the Miami Dolphins stadium.

"With the economy the way it is and so many people out of work right now, it's the best way to boost the economy," Ferrarelli said. "You're going to bring thousands of jobs into each location."

The serious amount of money already spent by Genting has sparked the interest of other Las Vegas casino operators, not to mention those who already own sports facilities in South Florida.

This new vision for Miami, however, will require approval from the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott. Casino backers have already begun a full-tilt lobbying effort and it appears the debate over gambling will be one of the biggest issues lawmakers deal with during the session that starts next month.

It would be tempting to think lawmakers are eager to go along, as Florida grapples with a 10 percent unemployment rate.

But that's not the case.

The initial bill filed by two South Florida legislators' calls for each company wanting a casino to spend a minimum of $2 billion. It has won the backing of builders and contractors as well as one of the state's big business lobbying outfits.

But a diverse coalition- ranging from Disney World, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and existing dog and horse track owners worried about their future - want lawmakers to reject the concept.

They contend such a massive proposal will harm the businesses already here because the promises of luring thousands of tourists from across the country and world won't pan out. They point to Nevada's struggling economy as proof that gambling is not what's needed to turn around the state.

"The reason these billion dollar casinos want to leave Atlantic City and Las Vegas is that they know Florida is growing," said Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber. "It would be a fundamental mistake for us to fall for that bet."

Floridians already spend a lot on gambling. The state-controlled lottery racked up more than $4 billion in sales during the last fiscal year and state economists say the existing pari-mutuels and Indian gaming generate another $3 billion.

Genting officials contend that adding three new mega-casinos could generate anywhere from $4.5 billion to $7 billion more, double what is happening in the state now.

Colin Au, head of Genting Americas, stood recently before a state Senate committee and made elaborate promises to back that figure up. He said his company would make sure to lure travelers from as far away as Asia by guaranteeing to purchase half the seats on nonstop flights across the Pacific. He tried to assuage fears that his resort would compete with Disney World by saying his hotel would sell tens of thousands of tickets to the theme park.

Au also disputed claims his resort would harm existing restaurants and hotels.

"We are spreading the cake all over the place," Au said.

But this optimistic take on casinos isn't shared by some who follow the gambling industry.

Janet Brashear, a Wall Street analyst, has concluded that South Florida casinos could succeed in attracting tourists, possibly to the detriment of both Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

But Brashear, of Bernstein Research, doubts that the state can support what is now envisioned. She warns that Florida is a not a "clean slate" and that it would have to become larger than Las Vegas to support a return on the level of investment mandated by the legislation.

The level of opposition that has mounted against the casino proposal so far may doom it this year.

Lawmakers appear split and Scott has avoided taking a direct stance. The governor came into office last January promising to jumpstart the state's economy but so far he has merely stated that he does not want the state budget to be more reliant on gambling revenue.

That's not what's on Ellen Tringali's mind.

To her it's still about the jobs.

Standing in line next to Michael Ferrarelli at a recent job fair at a jai-alai that is expanding to include slots and blackjack, the 47-year-old Hollywood resident said she's been looking for work since 2009. She said she took a slot machine repair course because the competition for jobs in her previous field, secretarial work, was too fierce.

"We're hoping," Tringali said. "It seems like the economy the way it is, gaming in South Florida seems to be something that's picking up."

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Isn't it great, more foreign investors buying property in the US.

December 26 2011 at 9:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Casinos will not help unemployment. People will come from all over looking for a job, and when the Casinos open there will be more unemployment then there was befor Casinos.

December 26 2011 at 8:20 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Mississippi should be worried if Gambling takes off in Florida. Presently Floridians contribute greatly to their closest gambling mecca with much vehicle traffic, routine airline travel and air charters which fly into the Gulfport-Biloxi and Tunica markets. It's likely much of that will vanish, just as it slowly did in Nevada once states legalized gambling and Indian Casinos opened all over the country.

December 26 2011 at 7:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We don't need any more games of chances, which really just suck money from alot of people and give nothing in return. Sure the casino owners and the government will make alot of money. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against gambling. I just beleive it should had never left the borders of Neveda. We need Politicians to govern to make sure all the same type of businesses have the same playing against each other. Not to give one a leg up on the other like what has been happening for a number of years. Not to give a tax credit to one just because they move to your area. If a business is in business to make a profit they don't need handouts from any Government agency. PERIOD. If they need money then they should go borrow it from the banking system and I'm not talking about the Government bank. Taxpayers should not be funding Private Or Traded Companies unless they use their extra money and buy stock/shares from a Exchange. If a company needs to move then they should pay not expect the tax payers to pay for them. What kind of nonsense is that. Year after year companies are getting handouts from the various Governemnts and they are in business to make a profit and they do make profits plus the handouts. Its time for the American Governments to get down to doing the job they were Elected for or they need to GO. Either on their own or at the polls. Plain and Simple.

December 26 2011 at 7:26 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

More corruption in many of our churches than in casinos ,by so called pillars of society .How many CEO's do you know that gauged their employees to live a life of luxury and profess to be Christian,or Jewish ?I've witnessed welfare recipiants squandering their money in a casino,but that's not the fault of the casino,but the fault of the government's failure to be accountable .

December 26 2011 at 6:41 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Short-term gain for long-term loss. It's like putting an antibiotic and bandaid on a dirty, infected wound. There would be small gains in construction employment for a limited time and then that would drop off. Afterwards it would bleed the residents of their savings and retirement income while a few profit greatly. On reservations I like to think of it as the Indians' revenge...

December 26 2011 at 6:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Las Vegas is broke.

December 26 2011 at 5:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is a job. A few high skill jobs but many are low skill and are paid appropriately. No wonder why many usually belong to a union in the north and are just stuck in the south where they have anti union rules

December 26 2011 at 5:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Everyone has choices on how they will make a living. Pool cue or broom stick? one generates new wealth one recycles old money. Casino's are the death rattle of a dying economy. They are run by con men who offer the elusive fantasy of instant success and wealth. Has the Florida lottery succeeded in pulling this dying economy up? NO it has only taken resources from the poor to be wasted by the stupid.

December 26 2011 at 3:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

soon there will be robberies there!

December 26 2011 at 2:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to swavico's comment


December 26 2011 at 7:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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