So, as my colleague Nick Sortal reports today, the Florida Panthers and Boyd Gaming have teamed up to bring a casino to the western Broward 'burbs, near the hockey arena (whatever it's called now) and the Sawgrass Mills mall.
It actually makes a lot of sense, and could bring some bucks to the state.
But it's a long way from happening. Actually, the odds look pretty steep, given the growing conservative nature of the Florida Legislature.
Gambling interests have long drooled over the western Broward corridor. The I-75/Sawgrass corridor is close to affluent areas like Weston and Parkland, and dense growth areas in Pembroke Pines and Miramar and western Miami-Dade. Plus, it's a quick haul across Alligator Alley for folks in Naples and Bonita Springs (whose main gambling options are a dog track and the Seminoles' Immokalee casino).
Boyd Gaming -- which owns the struggling Dania Jai Alai -- is a big Vegas outfit that has several ways to approach this.
1) Boyd's best shot is probably getting their current parimutuel/slots license transferred from Dania to a new location. It's currently not allowed, but could happen if the Legislature approves (and there are no legal challenges). It might be the easiest sell in the Legislature, since it would mean transferring an existing license within a county whose voters have already approved slot machine "racinos" at parimutuels.
The southeastern Broward gambling market is overcrowded (with Gulfstream, Mardi Gras, Seminole Hard Rock and Seminole Classic all clustered within 10 miles of Dania Jai Alai). So crowded that Boyd hasn't bothered to operate slots at Dania, or follow through with expansion/upgrade plans. It has tried to sell Dania Jai Alai, but the sale fell through.
Under the transfer scenario, the biggest question: What happens to the sport of jai alai? Under the current license/law, the slots license is tied to operating a certain number of annual live jai alai cards. If the Legislature keeps that, it would mean a new Sunrise facility would have to build a jai alai fronton. If the law is changed, it could mean the end of live jai alai in Broward. Not that there are many jai alai fans left.
2) Boyd's long shot way to go is trying to get a full-blown destination casino, one that's not tied to existing parimutuels. It's the same thing that Genting is trying to do in downtown Miami, and other gambling interests (like Sands, Wynn) are exploring in Miami Beach, Hollywood and other coastal areas. In order for it to happen, it would take an act of the Legislature or it could be tried through constitutional amendment/voter initiative.
I'd say a constitutional amendment is Dead On Arrival. Genting is exploring it, but it now takes 60 percent statewide voter approval for anything to pass. Not gonna happen. (The parimutuel slots amendment for Broward and Miami Dade barely squeaked by in 2004, with roughly 51 percent approval).
So that leaves it to the Legislature, which has been historically gambling averse. A resort casino effort fell flat last year, and no matter how many campaign checks are cut/lobbyists employed/egos stroked/palms greased, it could be a long time until full-scale casinos are approved in Florida. It might happen, but it could take a good 5-10 years.
The wild card in all this is what happens with the Seminoles' gambling compact renegotiation. With the blackjack/table games provision set to expire soon (2014, I think) at tribal casinos like the Hard Rock Hollywood and Seminole Coconut Creek, the tribe and state might hammer out a longer term agreement that could effectively shut the door on other competition.
Under the current compact (which spans another two decades for slot machines), the tribe's payments to the state would stop if the Legislature allows new full-blown casinos.
Boyd and the Panthers have a long and uncertain road ahead.
But that's never stopped big-money gambling interests from rolling the dice.