Miami Heat Owner Warns of Traffic Nightmare if Casinos Come to Downtown

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Miami Heat owner, Micky Arison, warns that if massive casino resorts come to downtown Miami, it would likely cause traffic nightmares, potentially turn off local basketball fans and generally disrupt Miami’s urban revival.

Arison is the majority owner of the Heat and the CEO of Carnival Corporation. He recently said, “We are on a roll, and I’m not sure this is the right way to continue it. I just don’t’ know how Miami can handle that kind of traffic.”

Many critics of the casino project have been vocal, but Arison’s comments represent the most critical yet from South Florida’s corporate elite. As plans could bring the world’s largest casino to the Miami waterfront, there has been an ongoing heated debate about whether it hurts or helps Miami as a whole.

There is also an interesting subplot going on within the debates – the leading casino operator that is pursuing a Miami site also happens to control one of Carnival’s top rivals, Norwegian Cruise Line.

Genting, the largest casino operator in Southeast Asia and the United Kingdom owns 50% of Norwegian and has already spent approximately $500 million assembling a waterfront site. Genting plans to build an enormous 5,200-room resort on the site of The Miami Herald headquarters that would include 50 restaurants and nearly four times as many slot machines as the largest casino in Las Vegas. In addition to these plans, there is also a nearby site in Miami that is reportedly under construction for a casino by Las Vegas Sands.

In response to Arison’s concerns, Genting spokesman Tadd Schwartz said Monday evening that the company is working with government officials and local leaders to solve any traffic problems the project causes.

Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan said Arison is responding like “a big baby” and added that in his opinion, the legalization of gaming in downtown Miami would be good for both the city and the cruise industry. He thinks that travelers would extend their cruise vacations in order to gamble and see South Florida sights.

Genting purchased The Miami Herald sit in May under a deal that allows the publisher to remain there rent-free for two years.

Arison commented on the site’s proximity to the American Airlines arena where the Miami Heat play their home games and said, “The size of these projects are gigantic. Traffic would make it a major negative for the arena’s business.” Arison even suggested that season-ticket holders may attend fewer games due to congestion that could be bad enough to hurt far-off businesses too.

Arison said he has not yet met with Genting or Sands executives yet, but adds, “If they have studies that can prove me wrong, I’d be happy to hear them and kind of back off.” He said he would not be so opposed to bringing such a massive, Vegas-style casino to Miami if it was built in a more isolated area.

Source: The Miami Herald

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