Fabiola Santiago Gets It Wrong; Let The People Decide
The Miami Herald’s Fabiola Santiago’s attack on Genting, the Malaysian development giant that has invested nearly $750 Million in a downtown Miami waterfront real estate misses a number of key facts.
Ms. Santiago ignores the fact that Genting has announced their intention to develop the old Miami Herald property to include a 500-room luxury hotel, 2 residential towers and 100,000 square feet of restaurants and retail without a casino. This has the potential to completely revitalize downtown Miami as adjacent property values would soar.
The Getting development would encourage development of adjacent properties creating more jobs and revenue and the potential rebirth of downtown.
Santiago says that Genting should abandon its long-term plan for a casino because “local leaders’ oppose it. Which local leaders? Mickey Arrison, who has a stunning conflict of interest because of the gambling on his cruise ships? Cheap politicians who were paid for with campaign contributions from Disney and The Florida Chamber of Commerce?
Santiago says that the Florida Legislature “disapproved” casino legislation when in fact it was never actually considered because Disney, working with pari-mutuel racetrack lobbyists and lobbyists for the casino owning Seminoles, blocked full consideration and debate by the House. There was no vote.
Santiago goes on to criticize Genting for donating $1.3 Million to parties and candidates but fails to note that Genting gave only $19,500 to state candidates and $9,500 to Miami Dade County candidates and donated the great bulk of its contributions to the Florida Republican and Democratic Party Committees. Genting gave no money to the shady electioneering communications organizations (ECO) which are used largely to attack legislative candidates.
Somehow, Santiago fails to miss the fact that Disney spent $2.3 Million to buy political influence in Tallahassee and is actually spending $900,000 through an ECO to grab control of the Florida State Senate and the Republican State Primaries. Santiago also fails to note that the Seminoles spent $448,000 in contributions to buy influence in Tallahassee. For some reason, Santiago fails to research and total the amount given by Miami Dade and Broward Horse and Dog Tracks and Jai Alai Frontons and their lobbyists which also greatly exceeds the amount Genting spends in political contributions.
Santiago falsely says that Genting has spent $697,000 on signature gathering activities for a constitutional Amendment to legalize casino gambling in Florida. In fact, public filings show that Genting spent the money on carefully examining public opinion through focus groups and polling conducted by respected Republican Pollster, Tony Fabrizio, who has vast experience in polling on casino gaming issues for Donald Trump, Penn National Gaming, Mardi Gras and Carnival Casino Resorts.
Why shouldn’t Genting and others who support casino gaming in Florida as a source of revenue and jobs put this question to the voters in a Constitutional Amendment? A calcified and paid-for legislature under Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz is unlikely to give casinos fair consideration.
It should be remembered that slot machines, which have been a large revenue source for the state, became legal by Constitutional Amendment only after three attempts by proponents to persuade the legislature that the pari-mutuel race industry was dying and that only limited legalized casino gaming would allow them to survive and compete with the Seminoles.