Miami Chamber of Commerce Host Town Hall Meeting On Destination Gaming

Pros and cons of destination gaming discussed at town hall meeting

By Steve Litz and Brian Hamacher
|  Monday, Dec 5, 2011  |  Updated 6:39 PM EDT
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The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is hosting a town hall meeting on destination gaming Monday.

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is hosting a town hall meeting on destination gaming Monday.

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The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is hosting a town hall meeting on destination gaming Monday.

The meeting is featuring both pro and con viewpoints from an economic development and quality of life perspective with former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who's working as a lobbyist for gambling group Genting, speaking on the pro side and President and CEO of UM's Good Government Initiative Katy Sorenson speaking against it. Sorenson is also a former veteran Miami-Dade County commissioner.

At the forum, Diaz-Balart talked about promises of generating tens of thousands of jobs if three mega-resort casinos are licensed in South Florida.

"Talking about social costs, think about the social cost of 100,000 employees who otherwise could have jobs and be productive for our economy," said Diaz-Balart.

A straw poll is expected to be taken at the conclusion of the meeting, which is open to the public. It was the second chamber meeting on the gaming issue, following an informational forum last month.

At Monday's meeting, Diaz-Balart and Sorenson took questions from people interested in House Bill 487, which would allow for three Vegas-style destination resort casinos to be licensed in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Sorenson is a staunch opponent of  major resort casinos coming to the area. She fears the outcome will be crime, congestion and cannibalization of existing small businesses.

"The house always wins ... the reason the Belagio has gold-plated faucets is because they got all that money from the losers," Sorenson said.

A similar meeting was held last week by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber and the Broward County Council Chamber.

The bill's sponsors, State Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff and State Representative Erik Fresen, both of South Florida, say the legislation could help the state better control its burgeoning gaming industry and bring in millions of dollars.

Critics worry about an increase in crime and the possible spreading of organized crime.

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