Gambling groups wait patiently for sign from lawmakers to expand Florida gaming

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At first, gambling company Genting Group moved into Florida on a wave of promises, including a $3 billion mega-casino with thousands of local jobs and company sponsored flights between Miami and Asia.

Now, the Malaysian-based gambling company is keeping tightlipped, writes Kathleen Haughney in the Orlando Sentinel, as the Florida Legislature starts hearings later this month on the expansion of gambling in the state. According to the group’s lobbyist, they are waiting before they say anything more.

Allowing “destination” casinos, like what Genting plans for Miami, is just one of the issues taken up last year by lawmakers when they announced they would examine the possibility of additional gambling in Florida — starting with a comprehensive look at racinos, pari-mutuels, card rooms and recently-banned Internet cafes, among others.

In addition to gambling, legislators also wanted to look at additional revenue streams casinos would bring to the state; things like restaurants, hotels and shows.

To determine if expanded gambling is feasible in Florida, the legislature has scheduled a number of public hearings, starting with one in Fort Lauderdale. They are also waiting on the comprehensive report on economic effects of the spread of gaming, a consultant study expected to be completed in October.

Several groups, like Genting and Las Vegas Sands, have been waiting years for the final go-ahead to start building in South Florida. They have been meeting with legislators, lobbyists and other political groups, as well as carefully keeping an eye on the 2014 election cycle for the signs saying time is right.

In all, proponents of destination casinos remain optimistic about the future of gambling in the Sunshine State, as long as they believe something will be done about the “haphazard” progress and lack of consistent regulation. They say the public is finally fed up with the lack of progress, and are ready to embrace mega-resort casinos in Florida.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.