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Florida One Step Closer to Mega Casinos

The state of Florida is one step closer to possibly building three huge casino resorts after a bill cleared its first legislative hurdle, gaining approval from a committee to move on to the next step of the process.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved the bill by 7-3 vote, gaining passage after an amendment was added to give residents of Florida counties the final say via referendrums as to whether or not a casino will be built in the county they live in.

Republican sponsors introduced the bill, which is designed to set the stage for three huge resort casinos to be built in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The bill will authorize the creation first of the Florida State Gaming Commission, which will be tasked with the job of licensing and regulating gambling throughout Florida.

Its first task would be to award three gambling licenses for new casinos to be built in south Florida's Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The resort-style casinos (similar to huge US casinos in Las Vegas) would require a minimum $2 billion investment for the companies awarded the licenses, as well as a $50 million one-time license payment, annual renewal fees of $2 million, and a a 10% tax on gross gambling revenues.

Casino groups that have already shown interest in competing for the licenses include Genting and Las Vegas Sands, both of whom have substanmtial experience with building and operating large-scale casinos in new markets such as Macau and Singapore. Genting has unveiled an early version of its design for a possible casino in south Florida, which would include the world's largest casino as well as other resort attractions.

Proponents of the bill hope to position Miami as a gambling mecca that builds upon the steady stream of visitors that fly into Miami from Central and South Amercia as well as US tourists looking for a warm weather vacation destination.

Other US states such as New York and Massachusetts are considering similar initiatives to expand their gambling operations or establish new casinos, hoping to bring in new revenues to offset sagging state budgets and persistently high unemployment.

10-Jan-2012, 02:16

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