In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: South Florida gambling plan is major affront to quality of life

 

fsantiago@MiamiHerald.com

After roaming the Pérez Art Museum Miami galleries on a recent Saturday, my daughter and I were enjoying cool bay breezes and sandwiches at the only table with an empty chair when a well-heeled woman with a foreign accent asked if she could join us.

Seldom are sweeter words spoken to a journalist.

I jump at opportunities to chat with people at Miami venues and this Brazilian interior designer didn’t disappoint.

She’s one of the newer Miamians driving the upswing in the real estate market: Part-time residents who make their money elsewhere but spend it here. What attracts them to the Magic City is the beauty of the landscape, the family-friendly lifestyle, and the global-city culture.

My tablemate owns an apartment in one of the translucent new skyscrapers across Museum Park on Biscayne Boulevard. She loves the new PAMM, the nearby Arsht Center, and can’t wait to take her children to the Science Museum under construction.

“In Río, we go like this when we go out,” she tells me, making the sign of the cross across her chest, “and we pray that we return in one piece and with all our belongings. But here, we are so free. We feel so safe.”

I should’ve brought her down to earth a little, but I was Miami-giddy that day.

The grim reality is that the stately neighborhood she now calls home is facing nothing short of a major affront on its quality of life as the state’s resistance to casino gambling expansion folds, player by player.

In a stunning move this week, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Republican who previously opposed gambling expansion, told the Herald/Times Bureau that he’s now open to passing legislation that would allow Las Vegas-style casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward.

If this happens, the Malaysian casino giant Genting will have overcome a major hurdle in the fight to turn the waterfront property the company purchased in 2011, the old Miami Herald and Omni complex sites, into a mega resort casino.

The project is a game-changer for any area, but a truly ruinous one for a once struggling part of downtown that has been turned – through decades of tremendous civic and public efforts – into an arts and cultural gem.

The state’s own $400,000 study on the impact of expanding casino gambling concluded that the negative effects on communities could outweigh the state revenue casinos were expected to generate and the jobs they might create.

The speaker, who’s from Pasco County and has enormous power in setting the agenda for the Legislature, seems not to care one iota about what happens in South Florida.

In exchange for pushing through the casino gambling expansion as a priority this session, Weatherford wants a constitutional amendment that requires voters to approve any future gaming.

His condition is only a bone he’s throwing fellow conservatives who oppose gambling. Voters have in the past turned down casino gambling expansion, but look where we’re now. That’s how little the speaker respects them. What truly matters is that, in this hard-fought election year, Weatherford’s support will fill Republican coffers with campaign contribution from gambling interests.

But hey, if Miami’s ruined in the process, it’s all good.

Rich Brazilians beware.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category