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Proposed Casinos Shake up Florida’s Resort Industry, and Legislators

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“Even among gambling friendly senators” there is mounting opposition to the massive destination resort casino plans proposed for South Florida, despite projections of an economic windfall.

A majority of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee has asked for significant changes to the current bill proposed for casino expansion legislation in the state. The Committee is known as being open to casino expansion, according to the Miami Herald, but is not yet willing to pass the current proposal.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is lobbying against the bill on behalf of Disney and the Central Florida theme park and tourism industry.

The facilities in question are three $2 billion resort casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties that could bring a reported $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion in annual gaming. The figure is based on 6.6 million to 14 million annual visitors to the resorts. The entire state of Florida currently sees around 82 million visitors annually.

The increase in visitors and resort activities would likely to give rise to a substantial increase in Resort Torts. If built, the initial proposed hotel alone is expected to have 5,200 rooms, making it the largest in the country.

The Senate sponsor of the casino resort bill, Ellyn Bogdanoff, estimates that 31% of the new gaming would compromise existing casinos, primarily the Seminole Hard Rock casinos. Casino cases in Florida currently hinge on the sovereign immunity of the Native American community that runs the facilities under their land grants. They cannot be sued and a plaintiff must go to tribal court. It is important to note, however, that not all areas of a casino location are necessarily tribe owned. Some of the shops and restaurants are “concessions” that are independently owned outside the tribe and can be sued outside tribal court. Common areas around a tribal casino are still considered tribal owned.

Florida already has a built-in base of resort tort victims because of the vast tourism industry throughout the state. Tourists are here to have a good time and relax, which can also mean letting their guard down in unfamiliar surroundings where alcohol and late nights prevail. Resort Torts can involve a wide range of cases, including hotel and motel safety; cruise ship litigation; pleasure boating and jet ski incidents; amusement, aquatic, diving and swimming incidents; foreign travel and medical emergencies; gaming and casinos; commercial and general aviation; rental car liability; moped, bicycle and motorcycle safety; buses and tour guides; travel industry liability for crime victims; medical care provided to vacationers, and many more.