The biggest threat to Las Vegas is Florida

The cat’s outta the bag: Casinos make money. A recent Florida state Senate committee report revealed that casinos brought in mountains of cash to the 13 states that opened them. Duh. Pennsylvania, for instance, took in $1 billion. So now, Florida is thinking about throwing its hat into the gaming ring.

The president of the Florida Senate says there’s a 50/50 chance that “Las Vegas-style” casinos (table games plus high-end retail) will be approved in 2011, to go along with the handful of gaming ships and Indian-run casinos operating there. And Gov. Rick Scott is on board. Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts already flew lobbyists over to the Sunshine State to vie for spots. And we, back here in Vegas, should be very, very afraid.

We’ve been freaking about Macau for so long, worried that the Chinese region is stealing our high rollers, stealing our mojo, and stealing our shtick, that we’ve failed to see the oncoming threat from within.

Make no mistake: Florida is a huge threat to us. If “Vegas-style” casinos opened there, we’d lose business from Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Jersey and, most damagingly, New York. See, unlike the other 13 states that opened up casinos, Florida would do it right. Those Floridians know tourism like we know, uh, tourism.

Blackjack & Buzz Lightyear, Poker and Pirates of the Caribbean, roulette and Runoff Rapids—we can’t compete with that. Oh, we’d like to think that casinos and theme parks don’t mix. We’d like to think that the spectacular failure that was the MGM Grand Theme Park proved this much. But the truth is, it failed because the rides sucked.

And if there’s one thing we know about Space Mountain and Journey Into Imagination, it’s this: They don’t suck.


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