Two South Florida Republican legislators intend to push for Las Vegas-style casino resorts now that an appellate court has ruled that lawmakers can expand gambling without voter approval.

The ruling last week affirmed a lower court decision that said the Legislature could expand gambling beyond the existing seven pari-mutuels in the state.

Some of Florida’s existing dog and horse racetracks, as well as jai alai frontons, had argued that they were protected by previous voter-approved laws that limited the number of gambling licenses.

The court said that while voters allowed expanded gambling in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, they did not restrict the number of gambling licenses that could be issued by the state.

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, have said they are filing bills for consideration in the upcoming January session that would create a new gaming commission and allow three resort casinos to be built in their two counties.

Their bills are expected to require that developers invest a minimum of $2 billion in each facility and pay a 10% tax rate to the state. The gambling facilities would bring money to state coffers and create thousands of jobs.

In anticipation of the court ruling and legislation, Genting Group has already unveiled plans to build the $3 billion Resorts World Miami.

Genting has assembled about 30 acres in downtown Miami that includes the $236 million purchase of the waterfront property on which the Miami Herald newspaper currently sits.

The Las Vegas Sands also is interested in building a resort in Miami.

Earlier this year, Bogdanoff successfully sponsored legislation referred to as a “Smart Cap” on future state spending levels.

The bill is similar to Colorado’s controversial Taxpayer Bill of Rights because it includes spending limits tied to inflation and population growth. Florida’s cap also includes revenues used to pay debt service on bonds.

A statewide referendum on the Smart Cap will be held during the general election next year.

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