Miami does not need a destination casino

Why aren’t our political and civic leaders speaking out against bringing a destination gambling casino to the heart of Downtown Miami?

It is truly amazing that nobody is challenging a destination casino other than former governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, former Beacon Council president Frank Nero and former state senator Dan Gelber. Nero knows all about the promises made by casino advocates and what happens later after they arrive and build their massive money-making machines. Frank was an elected official in New Jersey when casinos were touted as the economic savior for Atlantic City. We all know what happened there — the promises were never kept and the city today is worse off than before casinos arrived.

The casino advocates today are making the same kind of promises they made in Atlantic City years ago, ignoring the fact that Miami/South Florida already has a flourishing tourist industry and doesn’t need a mega casino in its midst that will only degrade what is here and will be incompatible with Miami Beach, Museum Park, the Arsht Center, the Design District, Brickell Avenue and the rest of downtown. South Florida is only now overcoming its image of being only a tourist destination. After much hard work over the years, Miami is now a center for finance, arts, theatre, international arbitration, education and medicine. The region is making an effort to attract engineers and other skilled jobs and trying to keep our college graduates here rather than have them move away.

Many people have worked for years to make Miami a vibrant city and international hub. In the early 1990s, when I was president of the Downtown Miami Business Association, we could only dream about the Miami that is today. Why are our government and civic leaders silent when the gambling interests and their lobbyists are plying the legislature to obtain their goal?

Does anyone really believe those seeking to have a destination casino in downtown have the best interests of our community in mind? Please. They are only here for one reason — to get a piece of the tourist dollars and to take those dollars back to Singapore or wherever, not Miami.

Sadly, just as in Atlantic City, a destination casino will not be a positive factor for Miami. On the contrary, just as in Atlantic City, a destination casino will destroy the very fabric of the downtown community, its immediate neighbors and for miles around. Restaurants and hotels as close as the Beach and as far away as Coral Gables will suffer. Studies done in Atlantic City and Las Vegas bear this out. In addition, the social ills that accompany a destination casino will surely also follow — crime, prostitution, drugs, human trafficking, bankruptcies, etc.

According to Spectrum Gaming Group, an independent research firm:
• 95 percent of casino patrons would be Floridians.
• Gambling over saturation has made it less of an attraction to visitors and has
• Required taxpayer bailouts of America’s newest “integrated destination resort” the Revel in Atlantic City.
• There is no demonstrated public appetite for more gambling.
• Florida is low in gambling per capita, which is why the industry wants in.
• Casino gambling and family-friendly tourism brands are incompatible.

When I came to Florida in the early 1970s as Governor Reubin Askew’s counsel on organized crime, I learned a lot about governance first hand. What has always guided me in my career as a lawyer and now as an elected official was Askew’s admonition to “do the right thing.” The “right thing” for Miami is to reject the siren song of destination casinos.

It is time for our government leaders to join Pinecrest and speak out against a destination casino in Miami as the Village Council did by resolution in February, and for our civic leaders to join with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Walt Disney Company to fight this threat to our quality of life in South Florida.

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