State Rep. Erik Fresen’s request at a House subcommittee meeting in Tallahassee today to temporarily postpone his bill to allow Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida essentially killed the bill for the 2012 legislative session.
After 90 minutes of debate, Fresen said, “To the extent that I have been around this process long enough” and “having the ability to read the tea leaves and recognize where this bill is headed in this committee … I would in a very friendly manner ask through chair Holder to temporarily postpone this bill as we continue to workshop it.”
State Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, responded, “Before we make that decision Rep. Fresen I want to be really clear this is the last time that this subcommittee will meet” during the 2012 session, adding,”in other words, there will be no opportunity to hear this bill before the 2013 session convenes.”
Fresen explained early in the meeting that his bill would fix antiquated loopholes for statutory gambling in Florida, that gaming has expanded in the state without any strategic direction and that the Legislature must address the gaming industry holistically and not in a piecemeal fashion.
Fresen added that his bill would protect and expand state revenue from the gaming industry and reroute gaming control, and that “destination resorts,” as the proposed casinos have been called, would be approved by voter referendum.
Supporters of the bill, as well as Fresen, once again defended the measure, arguing it would create thousands of much-needed jobs in South Florida.
Supporters included the Florida Carpenters Regional Council, the South Florida Tea Party, Associated Builders and Contractors and Associated Industries of Florida. They added that the bill would bring at least $2 billion of private funds to Florida.
Bill Herrle of the National Federation of Independent Business said the casino bill would allow for the creation of 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs per casino over 2.5 years. (See correction below.)
The coalition dedicated to defeating the measure, No Casinos, includes the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Attractions Association, the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Florida Sheriffs Association.
Grace Solaris, a Miami resident who spoke on behalf of neighborhood associations to oppose the Fresen bill, told subcommittee members, “Do your duty. Stop it now.”
The Miami Herald reports that “after working for weeks to muster the votes on the 15-member committee, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, couldn’t get a majority. He asked the committee to postpone a vote, leaving open a chance that the bill could be revived as an amendment but signaling that the effort is all-but dead this legislative session under House rules.”
The Herald adds: “In the end, [Fresen] couldn’t overcome the opposition headed up by a coalition of business groups, led by Disney World. The coalition included the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, religious groups, and was assisted by the powerful lobby of the state’s existing pari-mutuel industry and the Seminole Tribe.”
Richard Watson of Associated Builders and Contractors said the casino bill would allow for the creation of 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs per casino over 2.5 years.
The National Federation of Independent Business does not support the bill, but instead is neutral.