Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Prospect of Gambling Lures Hotel Developers to Florida

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Prospect of Gambling Lures Hotel Developers to Florida

Article excerpt

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. _ Who could resist?

The city offers $60 million in incentives to build an oceanfront, convention-size hotel, and there is rampant talk of legalizing casino gambling.

Intrigued by prospects to build the first big hotel on Miami Beach in 26 years, the Ritz Carlton, Hyatt, Loews, Peabody and Marriott chains are jostling for prime property bordering the ultra-trendy Art Deco district. Big-name investors in bids opened last week include Ross Perot and CBS Chairman Laurence Tisch.

The six proposals for hotels ranging from 756 to 900 rooms buttress the city's belief that southern Miami Beach is thriving after years as a decaying front-porch perch for old people in residential hotels.

"This hotel works with or without gaming, and certainly we would proceed in any environment," said Jonathan Tisch, president of Loews Hotels and nephew of the CBS chief. "There are demand generators that will keep Miami Beach busy."

The new vitality is easy to see.

Aging hotels once relinquished to rats are now sporting fresh pastel paint and neon, neighborhoods have been spruced up, and rollerbladers whiz past fashionable cafes.

The unknown quantity is gambling.

Banned by the Florida Constitution, casinos can't be built unless a majority of voters agree to a change. Four competing ideas are afloat to put the issue on the ballot this November.

Doug Sessions, executive director of the Proposition for Limited Casinos, believes the state is ripe for change even though two previous repeal attempts failed, the latest in 1986 by a 2-to-1 margin.

"Early polling and surveying have told us that a lot of the attitudes in Florida have changed," said Sessions. "The economic climate has changed dramatically as well. You've got casino operations springing up all over the Southeast."

Indian gambling has spread to 27 states, card rooms are legal in 10, riverboats in six and casinos in five. …

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