In Michael Yormark's vision for his corner of Broward County, a night on the town would include a big-name concert and a bite to eat or a nightcap with a little gambling. A hotel would be handy for tourists.
Not unlike what's available at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.
But before Yormark's plan for Sunrise could happen, the state Legislature would have to change the rules.
"We need your help to compete on a level playing field in our market," Yormark told the Florida Senate Committee on Gaming in Tallahassee on Monday.
Yormark is the CEO of Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, which operates the BB&T Center, home to the Florida Panthers hockey team. At about 21,000 seats, it's Broward's largest concert venue, drawing events like next week's Jingle Ball with Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke.
But Yormark says the Seminoles, with their Hard Rock Live concert venue, shops and restaurants, has an unfair advantage in booking musical talent. "The Tribe uses the concerts as a loss leader just to get people into the facility. Then they gamble and go to the restaurants and shopping," he said.
The BB&T Center is near the internationally popular Sawgrass Mills Mall. A hotel-casino in the area would create an entertrainment draw that could compete with Seminole Hard Rock, Yormark said.
Seminole spokesman Gary Bitner noted that Hard Rock Live holds 5,500 patrons.
"They can sell almost four times as many tickets to see a major act," Bitner said. "That divides the market significantly and really to say we're a direct competitor is a stretch."
Sunrise Sports announced in July 2012 it had a partnership with Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming in its pursuit of a casino. Boyd's Robert Boughner told legislators that the BB&T Center is "a very compelling option" in Florida.
The Senate committee spent the fall listening to all gambling interests as it considers whether to change Florida laws.
"Our No. 1 concern is getting a license for the BB&T Center," Yormark said. "And based on where this situation is, the most likely scenario would be the awarding of additional licenses through the legislature."
Currently, South Florida horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons can offer slots, with 35 percent of revenue going to the state. The Seminoles are a sovereign nation and aren't required to pay any tax on state-approved games. But an agreement with the state allows them to exclusively offer blackjack and other table games, and pay the state about 12 percent of their revenues.
Sunrise Sports could support what companies such as the Las Vegas Sands and Genting are calling a destination casino bill — a term Yormark prefers not to use. He notes that Orlando legislators, seeking to protect their state domination of the convention market, have objected to South Florida plans for casino-hotels that could steal their business.
"We're not looking to be a threat to Disney," Yormark said. "That's not the business we want to be in."
Boyd's Boughner said a casino-hotel in Sunrise would not siphon off Orlando's convention business.
"We're talking hotel rooms in the hundreds, not the thousands," Boughner said. Most Orlando conventions require about 2,000 rooms, experts say.
The Senate committee wrapped up its series of five hearings statewide on Monday.
"We're getting much, much closer to the starting line, where we're starting to get some meat on the bones," said chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples.
Last spring, Richter had asked for a comprehensive gambling study, and the state chose Spectrum Gaming to gather information that included data on horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons, Native American casinos, social impacts of gambling and possible impacts destination casinos would have on state revenues. The 464-page report outlined 12 scenarios, ranging from leaving things as they are to full-blown casinos across the state.Copyright © 2015, South Florida