Florida’s never-ending casino wars are heating up again, in the press and in court.
In a scathing op-ed in the Miami Herald, columnist Fabiola Santiago threw shade at Genting, the Malaysian casino operator, over their recent move to sue Miami-Dade County and state attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, saying the move “smacks of desperation.”
“Somebody ought to tell Genting that Miami is not Malaysia or Bimini,” wrote Santiago.
In this country, courts don’t step in and legislate, nor do they pre-empt police and prosecutors from doing their jobs and enforcing laws. A frivolous lawsuit that will cost taxpayers money doesn’t buy you any friends either.
Santiago piled on over Genting’s “frivolous” lawsuit, which seeks to force the county to allow the group to run gaming operations at a site they claim they were promised they could.
The area, now a thriving arts district, is not territory poised to become gamblers’ row. But the Malaysian casino refuses to take no for an answer from local authorities, voters or the state.
After spending millions in political campaigns — and losing legislative battles to expand gaming in a way that would allow them to build the massive casino resort — Genting’s Resorts World Omni is suing Miami-Dade County and State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle to force the state to allow card games and slots in the old Omni mall space.
They’ve concocted a deal to get around a 2014 denial by state regulators to move a Gulfstream Park pari-mutuel permit to the Omni, and they’re asking a judge to declare it lawful — and to pre-empt police and prosecutors from filing criminal charges against what would be illegal Omni casino operators.
Enough already. Go away, Genting. Flip the land while it’s a boom market. The bust is always around the corner in South Florida’s storied real estate history. Take the money and run while you can.
Santiago accuses Genting of treating Florida like a second-rate tax haven where money opens all doors — a characterization not all would disagree with.
In Bimini, the Genting gambling invasion was easier to ram down islanders’ throats despite predictable damage to the ecosystem. But here, the cards are stacked against the company — despite promises of a jobs bonanza when, in reality, the industry is moving toward cutting labor costs with automation.
This might have all gone away quicker had our politicians stood firmly against turning Miami into Las Vegas.
But city keys were handed out and Genting threw money at political campaigns up and down the state. The idea could have died permanently after the state commissioned a $400,000 study that didn’t endorse the expansion of gambling and mega casino resorts as a good thing for the state. Genting threw around more money into campaigns. They clearly expected a victory — and for the last five years the issue has been brought up by lawmakers in some form of legislation, but it has never come to pass.
Faced with public backlash, the obliging mayors of Miami and Miami-Dade came around and said, no thank you. Even the governor and Florida Legislature, which couldn’t care less about the fate of South Florida as long as they’re raking in revenues from us, have spared us (for the time being) from the quality-of-life-changer that Genting’s gambling dreams mean for the city.
Santiago quotes Democratic Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez and a local investor, who essentially said Genting is way off base in trying to sue their way into running slots in Miami.
She ends her gleeful romp with a twist of the knife infused with a little local color.
Instead of adding to the clutter in our courts, Genting would do better to hire a babalao — a Santeria priest might be of help, Miami-style — to sell the land. The anti-gambling ghosts that presided over Miami in life are still roaming the town.