The destination casino proponents have been quiet as the Florida Legislature has chugged along, but Tuesday Andy Abboud decided it was time to speak up.
It came after a companion bill in the Florida House of Representatives, was released Monday evening, a bill in name only, he says.
“It’s a long session and we know that it’s early but right now it appears that the Florida Legislature is comfortable with the status quo,” said Andy Abboud, vice president of government relations and community development for Las Vegas Sands Corp. “We had thought particularly over the last year that this would be truly a holistic approach that would put forth meaningful regulation and cap expansion by creep.”
The Senate bill provides for a hotel-casino each in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, but taxes slots at 35 percent, requires $2.5 billion in capital investment and doesn’t have a strong enough gambling control board, Abboud said.
The House bill, filed Monday night, doesn’t include the two casinos, which Abboud and others say would be built to attract tourists.
“I just think that both bills are disappointing,” he said. “It’s a gaming bill in name only.
“Those two bills don’t match the integrity of the discussion we’ve had with the legislature, nor does it match the discussions the public had with the legislature last year, nor does it match public will.”
The Sands, Genting, the Florida Panthers, the Hollywood Diplomat and the Fontainebleu are among those who would want a casino-resort in South Florida.
“It’s not all about integrated resorts,” Abboud said. “If you were to take away the model the Las Vegas Sands wants, there’s nothing here that does anything to make for a better gaming state.
“And that’s their choice, and maybe it’s early and maybe they view it as a starting point but I just don’t see how the state of Florida will ever be taken seriously by major gaming companies,” he said. “It’s Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football one more time.
“We are disappointed but we’ll continue to make our case and we’ll see where things go.”
The House bill also would eliminate about 10 inactive pari-mutuel permits. The 411-page House plan, was sponsored by House Select Committee on Gaming Chairman Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, insists his chamber will not pass any gambling measures unless Scott renegotiates a deal with the Seminole Tribe. Weatherford also wants any changes approved this year to be subject to a statewide referendum and require 60 percent approval for passage.
News Service of Florida contributed to this report.