Like a poltergeist, Genting, the Malaysian casino operators, won’t rest until they win approval to set up a mega-gambling establishment on the prime Miami waterfront land they purchased for $236 million in cash in 2011.
Nothing seems to discourage them. Not the ‘no, thank yous’ from local leaders. Not the disapproval from the Legislature at the end of its session.
And not an application filed by preservationists to designate as historic the Miami Modern building in the midst of Genting’s plans to erect a hotel and casino complex at their One Herald Plaza property and across the street at the Omni.
Now, the company aspires to nothing less than to change our state constitution. It has already put more than a half-million dollars into a petition drive to bypass the Legislature and put a pro-casino amendment on the ballot in 2014.
Get ready for the replay of the pro-casino gambling onslaught we’ve endured during the last year, when Genting threw millions of dollars at every strategy — lobbyists, campaign contributions, forums slanted to pro-gambling views — that could possibly help them get their mega casino empire built.
Already, they’ve spent $1.3 million this election season, according to a Miami Herald/Tampa Times analysis of campaign reports.
To the Republican Party of Florida, they’ve made donations totaling $486,000, as conventional wisdom tells them it’s the conservatives who oppose gambling. (Not so; on this issue the people who have a different vision for Miami are a bipartisan coalition). And they’ve given $111,000 to the Florida Democratic Party, where the support for Genting comes from the misguided belief that it will be a source of jobs for the people who need them most.
But enough of us see past the promises and the glitz of an architectural rendering that, even without the gambling, would radically change the arts district so many patrons of the arts have struggled to build over the decades.
If they were going to be good neighbors, they wouldn’t be seeking to change our constitution and buy our politicians.
They would be working with their architects and negotiating in good faith with the preservationists to build a classy resort worthy of its top location across the street from the region’s state-of-the-art performing arts center and next to the city’s top museums.
But for Genting, it’s not enough to offer a world-class hotel and restaurant complex a stone’s throw from the Port of Miami and a hop across two causeways to world-famous South Beach.
It’s about the cash generated by gambling — risky to the players and to the cultural destination Miami has become, but a win-win for the conglomerate across the globe.
Otherwise the gaming giant wouldn’t be fighting so hard and spending so much to ram casino gambling resorts down our throats.
Here’s a better idea, free of charge: Flip the property.
It’s not the right neighborhood. Genting bought low in hard times, but with real estate bouncing back, they can make a decent penny on the investment.
And we’ll be rid of the poltergeist.