When we last left sunny Florida earlier this year, a bid to legalize commercial casinos had died in the legislature - thanks mainly to fierce opposition from the state Chamber of Commerce, Disney and several influential business leaders in South Florida.
But like the zombies that rise up from the grave in the movie Night of the Living Dead, Malaysian-based casino giant, Genting, is back pushing an effort to bring casinos to Florida. After losing in Tallahassee, the firm launched a petition drive to get a casino amendment on the state ballot. Genting backed off of that effort last week and instead is once again lobbying, er, working with lawmakers to craft a measure to legalize casinos.
Genting had spent $905,000 on a possible petition drive and hired Nation Voter Outreach, a Nevada-based political consulting firm that specializes in organizing signature drives. It also hired constitutional scholar, Bruce Rogow, of Fort Lauderdale, to work on amendment language and paid political consultant and pollster Tony Fabrizio to start a setting up a political strategy, according to the Miami Herald.
A lobbyist for Genting said the company abandoned those plans because the next two years provides “a good opportunity to look at all aspects of the regulatory and strategic environment.” Translation: Genting would rather try to control state lawmakers than let voters decide the fate of casinos.
According to the Herald: “A pivotal player in the debate will be the Broward-based Seminole Tribe, the owner of the Hard Rock Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa and five other casinos in Florida. Its agreement with the state gives the Seminoles the exclusive right to offer blackjack and other table games in Miami Dade and Broward counties through 2015 in exchange for annual payments to state and local governments.”
Genting’s return to Florida is nothing new. Casino firms routinely get turned away by state lawmakers and voters. But rather than go away, the casino companies often just hire more lobbyist and spend more money trying to influence lawmakers and voters until they get their way. When it comes to legalizing casinos, no never means no.