Five to seven “destination resorts” would provide competition for the Seminoles’ Hard Rock casinos

Claiming that Florida “is losing the battle” to the Seminole Tribe over gambling policy in the state, one of the leading legislative opponents of gambling expansion has decided to back Las Vegas-scale commercial casinos.

Rep. Ellyn Boganoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, is proposing five to seven “destination resorts” throughout the state to compete with the Seminoles’ massive Hard Rock casinos near Hollywood and Tampa.

For the last two years, Florida lawmakers have been battling with the Seminoles and Gov. Charlie Crist over a federally mandated gambling compact that would enable the tribe to have slot machines and the exclusive operation of blackjack and other table games at its seven locations in exchange for payments to the state. Despite having no valid compact the Seminoles have expanded their operations to include slots and table games.

Bogdanoff believes it may be time to give up on the compact and instead “create competition to an industry that is not going away.”

Currently campaigning for the state Senate seat being vacated by Senate President Jeff Atwater, Bogdanoff is a long-time gambling opponent. She supported former Gov. Jeb Bush’s opposition to bringing slot machines to Miami-Dade and Broward counties in 2005. She helped secure a 50 percent tax rate on slots in 2006. And she has been one of the most strident opponents to Crist’s compact with the Seminoles.

Two other prominent conservatives, Rep. Alan Hays, an Umatilla Republican, and Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Miami Republican, also say they are open to bringing full casinos to Florida.

Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson told the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald that he is prepared to invest in the concept and mentioned the possibility of a $3 billion mega-casino and hotel in South Florida with convention, shopping, dining, spa and entertainment facilities.

Adelson has hired a Tallahassee lobbyist and has contributed heavily to Florida campaigns, including $19,000 to Crist’s ongoing U.S. Senate campaign, according to news reports.

A House committee plans a hearing in February on Bogdanoff's idea and other alternatives to signing a compact, said Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who heads the Select Committee on Indian Compact Review.

However, House Speaker Larry Cretul has put a damper on the plan, saying his chamber is still focused on reaching a compact with the Seminoles.

“There might be some who think that there's an opening,” he said. “I'm not so sure the opening is there."