Scott Meets Secretly With Casino Executives

Florida Governor Rick Scott (l.) recently met secretly with top officials from seven South Florida gambling properties. Most likely the executives lobbied for changes in the Seminole compact allowing them to compete more effectively. Compact provisions guaranteeing the state $116 million in annual revenue will expire July 31 unless Scott renegotiates the agreement.

Top executives from seven gambling properties in South Florida reportedly met recently with Governor Rick Scott in a secret, closed-door meeting, presumably to lobby for changes in the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Provisions of the compact will expire July 31, causing the state to lose 6 million in annual revenue, unless Scott renegotiates the agreement, which then must be approved by the state legislature.

The meeting was not listed in Scott’s public calendar, leading to complaints about a lack of transparency.

The executives at the meeting represented the Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park, Dania Casino & Jai Alai, Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach, Calder Casino & Race Course in Miami Gardens, Magic City Casino in Miami, Miami Jai Alai and Hialeah Park Racing & Casino.

Gambling operators continue to push for lowering restrictions and increasing Florida gaming opportunities, including allowing a limited number of Las Vegas-style casinos; legislation to that effect failed in 2013. But they’re not welcome in Miami Beach, said Mayor Philip Levine. He recently stated he does not want the developer or hotel operator of the proposed convention center hotel to be involved with any gaming operations now or in the future in Miami-Dade County. “The city of Miami Beach is anti-gaming. Anyone can bid on this project, as long as they align philosophically with Miami Beach,” Levine said.

He said a major casino would hurt Miami Beach’s tourism industry, whether it’s a “5000-room casino hotel in downtown Miami” or a casino resort on Miami Beach that would “be a big black hotel that will take away from the restaurants and all the other hotels.”

Malaysia-based Genting has proposed a 5,000-room gambling resort in downtown Miami, and the Fontainebleau Miami Beach has lobbied for a change in state gambling laws so it can add a casino to its property. Turnberry, the parent company of both Genting and the Fontainebleau, was a major contributor to the campaign of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.