January 23, 2012

Miamians Duped by Casino's Siren Call

I was reading the Miami Herald's article about how Miami-Dade voters are split evenly on both sides of the casino issue.
In a survey of 400 registered voters in Miami-Dade, voters split almost equally over the idea of large-scale casinos. The electorate is similarly divided over putting a destination resort and casino in downtown Miami on The Miami Herald's waterfront property.
Yesterday, we discussed how casinos are bad for business; how they suck in all the tourists, and keep those tourism dollars inside the casino.  Casinos have their own five-star restaurants, so the hungry gambler can dine like a king and return to the gaming floor. Casinos will bring drinks right to you, wherever you are on the gaming floor, so you don't have to stumble out for a drink.  They have beds, so you don't need to find a hotel.  They have gift shops, so you don't need to go hunting souvenirs for the folks back home.

We mentioned that there was a 40% reduction in restaurants, and that they essentially wiped out most of the other businesses, from 3,500 the year the first casino opened, to under 1,400 at the turn of the century.

But for some reason, people are still supportive of casino gambling in Miami.

Let's examine their opinions, shall we?
It brings the tourists here. It gives them something to do besides sitting on the beach, said Barry Haber, a gambling supporter from Kendall.
- The Miami Herald, Jan 23, 2012
Well, Barry is right about casinos bringing in more tourists.  He's also right that a casino will get people off the beach.  And out of the restaurants, and out of the hotels, and away from other local attractions.

Yes, casinos brought in droves of gamblers to Atlantic City.  They clog the streets and airport.  And they spend almost every dime in the casinos.  Great for the tax base, to be sure.  But 2,100 closed  businesses testify that those dollars won't help keep local businesses open.

nj08h57 Atlantic City Live Nude Show, New Jersey 2008
Well, some businesses managed to hang on.

You can't see a movie in Atlantic City.  You can't even buy gasoline anymore - you have to cross the bridge into Absecon or Pleasantville to do that now.  Want groceries?  You're leaving town again, to Absecon on the mainland, or Ventnor Heights, on a neighboring island. (I'll bet you forgot that Atlantic City is on an island).

Actually, one industry, besides the casinos, has increased in Atlantic City since 1977.  Pawnshops multiplied ten fold in the first ten years.

There's usually one within a block of each casino.

Reading the comments  attached to the article, it seems that most of those supporting the casino bill believe that it will bring jobs to Florida.

Anybody if they bring jobs.Miami unemployment is in the double digit numbers. Miami needs the jobs and once a miamian has a job who cares who hired him or her.This is a win,win situation.More jobs,more tourists that will bring more taxes and jobs.
MarkGarcia wrote:
Miami you need to get a reality check.  You need jobs or you can close the city and turn off the lights.  Miami needs to entice every business possible regardless of what it does, to come here, hire the 30% of unemployed workers that we have, raise wages and create benefits for all the underpayed and underemployed workers of this Banana Republic.
It sounds like Mr. Garcia needs a reality check.  "Regardless of what it does?"  Really?  So, if it's a factory that spews waste that kills everything for miles, we should jump on it?  It seems to me that jobs at ANY cost is a pretty stupid philosophy.

Fred Mariner:
Give us a chance to vote on this and it will pass overwhelmingly.  Theres too much at stake to let the elitist jobkillers steal our chance to create thousands of jobs for South Florida.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/22/v-fullstory/2602584/poll-miami-dade-voters-evenly.html#storylink=cpy
Here's the thing; if casinos create lots of jobs, then places with lots of casinos should have low unemployment rates, right?

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Unemployment Rates for Metropolitan Areas
Monthly Rankings
Nov. 2011

286     Miami  FL Metropolitan Statistical Area              9.4
354     Atlantic City NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area    12.4

Well, so much for THAT idea.

It seems to me that all the nay-sayers prefer to have empty buildings full of drug users, prostitutes, and vagrants versus tearing them down and giving life to an area that badly needs it.  There is no way that a Destination Resort can increase the crime that already exists in the area.  Have any of you tried walking around that area at night?  Definitely not safe.  Nothing like going to the Adrienne Arsht Center for a show, in your finest clothes and looking across the street at hoodlums and vagabonds.  Not exactly the optimal theater experience.
As long time readers know, I'm not exactly a Norman Braman fan.  He got us to waste millions to recall a mayor with barely a year left on his term.  He killed a much needed expansion of mass transit.

But there's "no way" that a "destination resort" can "increase crime that already exists in the area?"  That's a whoppingly stupid statement.  If there's no work, there's no money, there's nothing to steal.  Anytime  you increase jobs, you increase money, and crime increases because now there's stuff to steal.  Theft is always higher in the rich neighborhoods.

So to StopBraman, I have to issue the challenge to walk around Atlantic City at night.  Specifically, I challenge him (or her) to walk from the Taj Mahal to the Golden Nugget, straight across the city.  Almost impossible to get lost;

It's only 1.8 miles through the worst neighborhood on the island.

I wouldn't do it alone.  And I'd tape your insurance card to your body, because you probably won't get to keep the wallet all the way across.

...and through the second worst neighborhood, too.

I also have to point out that when the Kravis Center was built, you wouldn't have wanted to walk over to Roxy's after a show. I know - I lived there at the time.  Same for the Broward Center.  Of course, now you can walk from these beautiful venues to any number of excellent restaurants or bars, because there are any number of excellent restaurants and bars to be walked to. 

Arts and cultural centers have a track record for attracting complimentary businesses.  Check out Actors' Playhouse in the Miracle Theater.  Of course, Miracle Mile wasn't quite blighted, but it was home to wedding supply shops that shut down at 5pm.  It was dead down there at night.  Now, Miracle Mile is a destination in and of itself; fine dining, clubs, galleries: it's a thriving business district.

Kids trick-or-treating along Miracle Mile in Coral Gables.

Build a casino, and that will be the only thing around for miles. And it will still be unsafe to walk there from the Arsht Center or the Museum, just as it's unsafe to stray from Atlantic City's boardwalk at night.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/22/v-fullstory/2602584/poll-miami-dade-voters-evenly.html#storylink=cpy
Miami needs more of everything and anything if it is to become a REAL city and not just a playground to visit. A convention center focused hotel casino would be good for business.
As noted, not so much. A convention center - yes!  We desperately need a new convention center.  But without a casino; we have lots of great things to see and do, that need more people seeing and doing them.

todd scott:
Miami could become a world class city and attract even more tourist with a well constructed high end casino.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/22/v-fullstory/2602584/poll-miami-dade-voters-evenly.html#storylink=cpy
You mean, like Atlantic City is a world class city?  It's got over a dozen high-end casinos, including the Borgata.  I think you should be able to buy groceries in a world-class city, don't you?

Several people pointed out that most of the long-term jobs at the new casino will likely be low paying, menial jobs. 

Here's how Bultproofsol put it:
The jobs the Genting would create will be mostly service industry jobs... custodial, bars and restaurants, retail, hotel, and other menial paying jobs. Construction jobs are temporary.
Manny Rodriguez responds to Buletproofsol:
So you're saying that bartenders are going to build the most futuristic project on the planet?

You, sir, are an imbecile
No, Manny, he's saying that construction workers will build the most futuristic project on the planet - for a year or two. Then they'll be unemployed again.  We have a pretty good idea who's actually the imbecile, here.

John Balzer seems to be sharing a brain cell with Manny:
The notion that a world class resort can be run with "menial" jobs is ludicrous. While there will likely be a spectrum of jobs, is there anything wrong with having them? Right now, there are many people are out of work in Miami and they are eager to get employed. The Genting Group has a reputation for paying the highest salaries in the industry.
John, nobody is insinuating that a world-class resort can be run with menial jobs.  The suggestion that anyone is claiming this is idiotic.

As you point out, Genting pays top wages.  And they pay top wages to attract the best people.  What's really ludicrous is the notion that the best people to run this new world-class casino are hanging around Miami waiting for this casino to open. World Class employees don't sit around collecting unemployment.  They get hired, because they're, well, World-Class.

Any world-class resort would want to staff itself with the best people from around the planet; you don't want the former night-desk manager from the Sinbad Motel on Biscayne Boulevard running the place.

Contrary to popular belief, they don't have hourly rates.  Anymore.

And last I checked, we didn't have hundreds of experienced dealers in the neighborhood.  Unless they get hired away from the Seminoles and Miccosukees. And if that happened, then they'd have to bring in dealers from Vegas, Atlantic City, Hong Kong, Macau, and any place else that has exquisite, world-class casinos.

So, since it's likely that they'll be hiring resort management from the top resorts on the planet, and they'll be bringing in dealers from the most exquisite casinos in the world, what does that leave?  Bellhops, maintenance staff, waiters and waitresses, and all sorts of other menial, minimum wage positions.

I left out security.  Who would you hire locally to protect your assets?  Miami cops?  TSA agents?  Hey, let's hire a bunch of folks who've been unemployed in South Florida for the last couple of years, stuck with mortgages ten times the value of their homes!  They wouldn't be tempted to skim. Much.

But John Balzer isn't done being stupid, yet:
This argument doesn't stand up because it implies that it would be better to have NO jobs.
News flash for you, Johnny: saying that casinos are the wrong industry to bring into South Florida doesn't imply anything of the sort.  We definitely need jobs.  But we need them in an industry that's not going to put other businesses out of existence, as casinos have a track record of doing.

We could build a convention center; South Florida's convention centers are dire pieces of shit.  And I say that with all due respect.  They don't meet the needs of the convention industry; they lack mission-critical amenities, and I don't mean slot-machines.  A hotel with a convention center, equipped with all the latest technology; it's clean, it creates jobs, attracts visitors, and it compliments the existing infrastructure.

Wendy Frish:
I voted in the poll and I votes YES on casinos in Florida.  I need a job and so do all of my friends.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/22/v-fullstory/2602584/poll-miami-dade-voters-evenly.html#storylink=cpy
Enjoy making those beds, Wendy!  Unless you've been dealing baccarat someplace.

Can you even spell 'baccarat', Wendy?

In which case, they'll probably still pass you over because any baccarat dealer worth anything wouldn't be lollygagging in Florida.  You'd be working.  If not at one of the Seminole or Miccosukee places, then on a cruise ship.  And if you were serious about pursuing casino work, you'd be part of the 12.4 unemployment rate in Atlantic City instead of the 9.4 unemployment rate down here.

The people funding this opposition and negative lies are coming from the ones that will loose the most, The indian casinos, Cruise to nowhere Casinos and the Islands Casinos. None of them contribute to our taxes and if this passes we will get a big income in taxes as well as employment.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/22/v-fullstory/2602584/poll-miami-dade-voters-evenly.html#storylink=cpy
Joe, you left out the biggest constituency of all; those of us who aren't idiots.  I do not work for a casino, or a cruise line, or indians (native americans.)   I'm a guy who's lived through this. I watched as the casinos sucked the life out of Atlantic City  I know what casinos do for a city; they put local businesses out of business.

But Joe7911 has more to say:
WE are already filled with prostitution, and petty thief's, Major casinos will bring the money for better and more police presence, The crimes would be better controlled and much of eliminated. It would be a Major windfall for south Florida.
"Crimes would be better controlled?"  Interesting approach.  Why reduce it when you could control it?  Maybe the Mafia will come in, and give us a piece of the action when they run the criminals.  Let's just quit pretending, and give in to wholesale corruption.  Great idea, Joe.

Since, as you say, we already have prostitution, why don't we skip the casinos and license some good old fashioned brothels?  Talk about 'Miami Vice!'


  1. I honestly don;t give a shit about the purported "jobs" the casinos will supposedly create, in fact I think your arguments are fairly reasonable.

    I am however for the casinos because of one thing. Genting is planning to leverage the casinos in Florida and their base as an MNC from Asia to turn MIA into an Asian hub like LGA and LAX.

  2. "Theft is always higher in the rich neighborhoods."

    I seriously doubt this, and certainly crime in general is worse in poor neighborhoods as you so colorfully illustrated with your 1.8 mile walk-through challenge.

    I keep meaning to address the gambling issue, too, and you're doing a great job overall even though at the end of the line I disagree. I'd like to see gambling here, but it has to be implemented and managed better than they did in AC. (duh)

  3. Anonymous; you support casinos because they'll boost traffic at MIA? You'd destroy hundreds if not thousands of business just to increase traffic at our airport. Interesting. Stupid, but interesting.

    squathole; you can disagree all you like, but it's true. Theft is always higher in wealthy neighborhoods than in the poorest neighborhoods. But note that I specify "theft," and not "crime."

    What's in the neighborhoods in questions? Huge casinos drooling money. So while they are bad neighborhoods, they are paradoxically wealthy neighborhoods.

    Take a look at the Chelsea section of Atlantic City - or even Ducktown - and the crime rates are much lower.

    BTW, the squares of green on that crime map? Those are the places where all the buildings have been torn down.

    Dude, look at Miami's management record so far; MIA; billions over budget. Arts Center; hundreds of millions over budget. Do I really have to bring up the Marlins Stadium fiasco? It would be a miracle if Miami could manage to manage the casinos half was well as Atlantic City did. Which is why it's a bad idea.

  4. No, not because it'll boost traffic to MIA, that place is a shit hole.

    It'll lower airfare prices to Asia.

    Not stupid, selfish.

  5. OK, I'll give you selfish. Sacrificing SoFla businesses to knock a few points of a plane ticket to the other side of the planet? Definitely selfish.

  6. It's not like Floridians haven't been screwing the state up for their own selfishness before, Rick Scott and his turning down the high speed rail money for example.

    At least I can say I'm more informed than the idiots that voted that guy in on what will happen if I get what I want. Plus, it's not like opening up Asian immigration won't help property values. It might hurt traffic though.

  7. The best argument against gambling here is the incontrovertible fact that Miami's leadership is the paradigm of corruption, mismanagement, and incompetence that the gaming industry can't help but overwhelm, resulting in exactly the chaos that you have in AC. On this I think we're in full agreement. So any support I express for it is premised on the prior condition that local leadership must be overseen (or even replaced) by outside regulators. Who they are and how this works is beyond me.

  8. any support I express for it is premised on the prior condition that local leadership must be overseen (or even replaced) by outside regulators.

    Remember that Atlantic City casinos are overseen by the Casino Control Commission because the local government was "the paradigm of corruption, mismanagement, and incompetence".

    The problem is that casinos are not designed to promote the areas they are located in, merely to draw people into the Casino. They do that great.

    Outside regulation won't do, if you pardon the expression, squat.

  9. C.L.J., I enjoy your blog even though we disagree. More public forums like the Herald are inappropriate for long rants or throughout explanations of points of view. Your effort here is commendable.

    John Balzer