No Casinos: proposed Genting/Gulfstream slot machine deal is a “bait-and-switch”

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No Casinos calls a proposed agreement between casino operators and a Miami racetrack as “another gambling bait-and-switch.”

Gulfstream Park and Resorts World Omni, a division of Malaysian-based Genting Group, recently put forward a deal that would add slot machines to a property in downtown Miami that once held the Miami Herald.

At the heart of the issue is the transfer of a permit originally issued to the non-profit Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program (GPTARP), part of Gulfstream owner The Stronach Group.

The Orlando-based anti-gambling group strongly opposes the transferal of the permit to operate up to 2,000 slot machines while allowing GPTARP to continue running horse races at Gulfstream, as Resorts World would manage a slot machine and card room facilities at a downtown Miami property.

“Voters were promised and the constitution authorizes,” the No Casinos website states, “slots ONLY ‘in existing, licensed pari-mutuel facilities.’ What part of ‘No’ doesn’t Genting get? ”

The group continues by saying “legislators told them no and voters approved slots only ‘in existing, licensed pari-mutuel facilities’ in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.” 

If legislators or regulators choose to transfer the permit, it would essentially “decouple” slot machine operations from horse and dog racing. Decoupling could fundamentally change the amendment voters approved by 50.8 percent in 2004.

According to Florida statutes:

“A slot machine license may be issued only to a licensed pari-mutuel permit holder, and slot machine gaming may be conducted only at the eligible facility at which the permit holder is authorized under its valid pari-mutuel wagering permit to conduct pari-mutuel wagering activities.”

Gulfstream maintains that the permit it obtained last year is for its GPTARP subsidiary that straddles the county line, allowing it to operate in both Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. NoCasinos agrees with some state regulators in rejecting that interpretation.

Genting representatives are urging legislators to either clarify the law, get regulators to change the ruling or bring the matter to court.

Resorts World, owner of the Hilton Hotel a block away from the Herald tower, proposes to set up three condominium towers, a waterfront promenade and a 500-room luxury hotel. The plan is a fraction of the $3.1 billion resort originally planned for a 5,000-room extravaganza on 13.9 acres sought by the company in 2011.

N oCasinos implores legislators to take note of the “games the industry plays every time gambling is expanded.” They call it a “warning sign” for what could happen if they create an “independent gaming commission” – essentially a new bureaucracy — something the gambling industry wants. 

No Casinosis also promoting a January 15 documentary that will take a “clear-eyed look” at the evils of gaming.  

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.