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Support builds for destination casios in South Florida

By Lynn Hatter


Tallahassee, FL – A South Florida construction association Tuesday endorsed a proposal to bring three resort casinos to Miami-Dade and Broward counties. James Call reports, the Latin Builders Association says multi-billion dollar resort casinos will produce tens of thousands of jobs.

Bernie Navarro, the incoming president of the Latin Builders Association greets Fort Lauderdale Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff at news conference announcing the groups support for a casino resorts proposal.

The Latin Builder's perspective is one of jobs, thousands of jobs. Bogdanoff and Miami-Dade Representative Eric Fresen propose allowing construction in south Florida of three destination resorts featuring Las Vegas style casinos. Winning bidders would have to pledge to invest a minimum of two- billion dollars in the project. An investment large enough to get south Florida's Latin Builders Association to travel to Tallahassee to endorse the proposal.

"We know of nothing else in south Florida that would bring six billion dollars of investment to our community. As is proposed today that is two- billion per destination resort. We welcome it. We encourage it. We want to make sure it is done right and brings the jobs we need now."

The idea has drawn criticism from faith-based groups, the Florida Chamber of commerce and the Retail Federation. House Speaker Dean Cannon says he is philosophically opposed to the expansion of gambling in the state. Senate President Mike Haridopolos says the Senate will debate and vote on the proposal but that he won't be twisting any arms to get it passed.

However, Associated Industries of Florida, an influential lobbying group, supports the concept. It says it is about job creation.

Noelia Moreno. The Latin Builders current president, says within her group, which counts 750 business members, employment is down 52 percent since 2005. Moreno says, Bogdanoff and Fresen's proposal will put people to work.

"We're not talking hundreds or even a thousand new jobs created. The destination resorts would create more than 40 thousand construction jobs and nearly 100 thousand permanent jobs in Florida in a matter of a few years and we need these jobs now. We needed them yesterday but we definitely need them now."

The Destination Resorts Casino bill is scheduled to get its first hearing Wednesday during a Senate Regulated Industries workshop.