BB&T Center proposes building casino, hotel

Florida Legislator would need to expand gambling in state

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter , Ben Candea

SUNRISE, Fla. - The operators of the BB&T Center want to build a casino and hotel next to the arena.

But they must convince legislators to pass laws expanding gambling in the state, something several other corporations that want to build resort casinos -- including Genting Group -- also want.

"We believe it would be the right project in precisely the right location at the right time," said Bob Boughner with Boyd Gaming.

"The chair of the senate committee, Senator Richter, said he thought it was 50/50 whether or not there would be any legislation passed," said former Sen. Steve Geller.

Florida currently has a contract with the Seminole Tribe that gives it a virtual monopoly on table games like blackjack. In return, last year, the tribe gave $233 million to the state.

"Senators, this is simply not fair," Florida Panthers President Michael Yormark told the Senate Gaming Committee last week.

Yormark argued allowing a casino and hotel at BB&T will level the playing field, but if the state expands gambling this year, BB&T would also need approval from its landlord, Broward County.

"The county may decide that they want to increase the rent," said Geller. "I assume that the county will seek increased revenue if you're going to permit a casino to go there."

The Legislature is expected to take up the issue of expanding gambling during the next session, which begins in March.

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