Finally something Democrats and Republicans agree on. But the question is, will the rest of the state agree on it? Two Florida Senators have announced Friday that they have filed legislation that would allow, if passed, Vegas Style Hotels complete with Casinos to be built in Florida. The deal is expected to bring 5 million new visitors to Florida annually, keep residents in-state to gamble and bring in big trade shows and expos. But what about the already competitive theme park industry?
Nick Sortal from the Sun Sentinel lays out all the details in this article (click for full story). In short, legislators are pushing for one “destination resort” in each of the five districts around the state. Each resort would of course feature a casino, at least 1,000 rooms and at least 500,000 square feet of it’s total space must be reserved for meetings and conventions. In addition, the casino at the resort can be no bigger than 10% of the total square footage of the resort.
Hopeful companies would pay a $50 million dollar refundable licensing fee, and a $1 million dollar non refundable application fee. That’s a good amount of money for the state’s general fund at a time when the economy is straining the state’s budget.
Florida has slowly come around to gambling, with Seminole Casinos, slot machines, dog tracks, and lottery (yes playing the lotto is gambling kids). Most recently the state allowed Blackjack at the Seminole Casinos. Needless to say they aren’t happy about the proposal. More details on why can be found here.
But what effect would it have on the already competitive Theme Park industry? Would family excursions to Disney and Universal be lessened in favor of mom and dad’s trips to the casino? Where in District 2 (which includes Nassau, Duval, Clay, Putnam, St. Johns, Flagler, Marion. Volusia, Lake, Seminole, Orange, Polk, and Osceola Counties) would the Casino’s choose to build?
If it’s too close to Orlando Disney may have a quite a bit to say about it. For example, back in 2000 the “High Speed Rail” was voted into existence and talks were being held about the best route. Disney’s help was needed in order to make it work, just like now. Only then, Disney wanted just a straight shot from the Orlando and Tampa airports right to Disney property. They would not get that, so it was shot down. Disney perceived then that any other stops would lure guests to other destinations outside the park. Fast forward ten years later and the same proposal, with Disney attendance going somewhat flat, and it seems like the logical move. This could be the same case with a Casino Hotel, roughly the size of their largest resorts.
With it too close to Disney property, there could be a huge rally on the part of Disney to get the votes against the proposal. Too far away, and the hotels may suffer from not having the Disney draw. On the other hand, Disney may be all for it just to get a feel for the market and eventually open a Casino themselves. Sound unlikely? No one thought they would build an adults only entertainment district either.
Let’s pose the question another way, would a huge Vegas style Resort draw away from other smaller parks in the area? With parks like Universal, who is riding a huge wave right now thanks to Harry Potter, the answer would be most likely not. Other parks like Sea World and Busch Gardens Tampa would most likely feel more of a pinch as families opt out of spending an extra day in their parks. Instead, mom and dad could take in a show at the Casino or hit the tables while the kids enjoy the pools and other activities at the hotel.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the resorts could not only be a huge boon for the economy but for the Orlando area theme parks as well. If someone who was going to go to Vegas, decides to go to Florida instead, the run off effect could be huge for local business as people venture outside of the resort.
However, out of all the parks in District 2, the one with the biggest impact would definitely be Disney. Perhaps soon, as talks increase the house of mouse will voice their opinion on the matter, and those in Tallahassee will probably listen.