Associated Industries of Florida held a press conference in Tallahassee on Tuesday to support a bill proposed by GOP state legislators to bring Las Vegas-style casino resorts to South Florida.

Associated Builders and Contractors, the Florida Concrete Products Association, the Florida United Business Association, the Florida Transportation Association, the Latin Builders Association and other groups were also present to show their support for the casino bill filed by state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami.

“Building and operating three destination resorts in South Florida will put paychecks in the hands of 80,000 to 100,000 Floridians,” Brewster Bevis, vice president of external affairs for the Associated Industries of Florida, said.

Bevis added that these “are high-quality, well-paying jobs with benefits that could provide good living and a good career for thousands upon thousands of Floridians,” adding that “many of these jobs would be available in the next 12 months, providing immediate unemployment relief for one of the industries hit hardest in the nation’s economic recession, that being the construction industry.”

Bevis said the proposed bill would have long-lasting positive effects on Florida’s economy, providing “$6 billion dollars of private capital investment capital here in our state. … These projects would pay for schools, health care and security.”

Bevis also said a Washington Economic Group study put the numbers of jobs created at 100,000, but he could not say how many of those jobs would be permanent.

Associated Industries launched an ad campaign supporting what they call destination resorts this week, and also runs an online campaign, More Jobs for Florida, ”dedicated to the destination resort issue.”

According to More Jobs for Florida, “as a result of the current recession,” Florida “has to consider new ways to grow its economic base to provide new jobs and a more stable economy” — something destination resorts will accomplish.

Not all of Florida’s business sector agrees with Bevis.

No Casinos said in written statement: “Today in Tallahassee gambling expansion promoters started trying to turn ‘casino gambling’ into ‘destination resorts.’ In front of the Florida Senate chamber casino gambling promoters held a press conference calling on the legislature to legalize high-stakes casino gambling and pave the way for Florida having the largest casinos on the planet.”

No Casinos counts among its supporters the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Attractions Association, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Florida Retail Federation.

No Casinos’ release adds: “None of the four speakers who spent almost 20 minutes reading prepared remarks and answering questions ever uttered any word that even gave a hint of what they are calling on the legislature to authorize. Not even the euphemistic ‘gaming’ got an at-bat.”

When asked if Associated Industries’ received funds from the Genting Group to air ads that support the casino bill, Bevis would not confirm nor deny, but did add, “We have never said who are membership is” and, “Why souldn’t we create these 100,000 jobs?”

Malaysia-based Genting Group is one of several companies very interested in building casino resorts in South Florida.

Rick Watson — legislative council for Associated Builders and Contractors, “the voice of commercial construction” — said, “We see the destination resorts act as a catalyst to invigorate” tourism, sales tax and development revenues.

Watson called on state legislators to “vote in favor of legislation supporting destination resorts,” as did the Latin Builders Association.

According to the Latin Builders Association spokesperson, the “three destination resorts will create more than 40,000 construction jobs and nearly 100,000 permanent jobs in Florida in a matter of years.”

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