What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas

By | October 17th, 2011 | 5 Comments
Resorts World Miami

Seeing past the glitz, Fabiola Santiago sees Genting's Resorts World Miami for what it is: a mistake.

A recent Miami Herald opinion piece by Pulitzer Prize winner Fabiola Santiago — “Last thing Miami needs is to become Vegas”, published on Friday — is astoundingly spot on. Astounding because it so frankly states why Miami should resist the false allure of the casino, and more so because the Herald’s previous coverage of the issue has been so slanted.

The piece starts with a lean declaration. “I hate Las Vegas,” Santiago says, before giving an explanation that does not ask for your agreement.

Everything about that city is a grand fake, a man-made mirage. From the moment you land to the second before you leave, with the addicted still gambling on the last machines by the boarding gate, everything turns into a manipulated experience aimed at evoking a cheap thrill, the kind that costs plenty, wanes quickly and leaves you empty.

There is a reason Santiago is sharing her hatred of a city more than 2,500 miles away: a strengthening push by local and state politicians to turn Miami into a gambling destination, a tropical Las Vegas. A Tallahassee court recently cleared the way for legislators to expand gambling in South Florida, and Malaysian conglomerate Genting plans to turn Herald plaza, a recent acquisition, into a “mega casino-hotel-restaurant complex”.

Not only will the complex — which she dubs “the monster on the bay” — snarl traffic downtown, says Santiago, but it will dissuade suburbanites from patronizing two up-and-coming neighborhoods, Wynwood and the Design District. “Who wants to be in the midst of addicted gamblers, high-stakes prostitution and organized crime?” she asks.

Santiago’s Genting-may-care language contrasts starkly with the Herald’s recent coverage of the casino issue, which has been decidedly non-confrontational since Genting paid Miami’s paper of record $236 million for its property (a deal that will allow the Herald to stay on site rent-free for two years). A Sept. 20 op-ed by Michael Putney, for example, called the Genting deal “a winning hand for Miami”, citing “billions of tax revenue and thousands of jobs” the resort will supposedly create.

Then there’s the series of shamelessly fawning stories by the Herald’s Elaine Walker, the most egregious of which has the cringe-worthy title “Genting Chairman ‘a very humble guy'” and leads off with the following pat of butter: “Genting chairman KT Lim may be one of Malaysia’s wealthiest individuals, but he still drives his own car, carries his own bag, answers his own phone and periodically travels economy class.”

The Everyman cred of a tycoon worth $665 million may be fascinating, but Santiago chooses instead to home in on the fact that a cadre of “short-sighted local leaders” with Lucky 7s in their eyes are pushing “economically beleaguered Miami” toward the garish and dubious promise of a gambling economy.

The threat that our city of refuge, a fledgling but celebrated arts and culture hub, a place where the homegrown and the newly arrived and the rich and poor rally with pride around the same sports teams — a young metropolis where the one good thing that grows is hope — would be turned by the machinations of city and state government into a Las Vegas-style destination sickens me.

Hear, hear. This is the language that this crucial issue deserves, not Putney’s convenient puns or Walker’s obsequious litany of a magnate’s endearing quirks. The wonder, as one commenter points out, is that the Herald let Santiago’s piece go to print in tact. “You work at the Herald and you wrote this?” ElTikiTiki wrote. “That is brave of you.”

Of course, it shouldn’t take bravery to talk tough in a big-city paper. But with the Herald literally bought by Genting, it took courage and a gambler’s willingness to lose it all. Hats off to Santiago for going all in.

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To read “Last thing Miami needs is to become Vegas” in full, click HERE.

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5 Comments on “What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas”

  1. 1 Anna Louise said at 6:58 am on October 17th, 2011:

    Medill at Northwestern. . . wonderful school for journalism. . . my daughter attended the Cherubs program there in the mid-1970’s.
    Now then. . . Ms. Santiago’s blistering opinion piece about the Genting Malaysian resort was completely off base (in my opinion). She is running in place with only speaking of Las Vegas as if this was the wherewithal of resorts and gaming. She neglects to mention Casino Monaco in Monaco, St. James club in London and Antigua, Mandarin resort in Macau, Baden-Baden in Germany (which I have frequented) and so forth. Soon there will be a yacht basin for sleek ocean going vessels that will sail to our beautiful city (my home for more than 70+ years and I still love her with all its warts, wrinkles, and woes and I’m here for the duration) for vacation, entertainment, and games of chance. . . there will be no flip-flops, tank tops, nor ragged shorts. Ms. Santiago mentioned that prostitution (which has been prevalent this side of the bay as well as on Washington Avenue on the Beach, etc.), mafia, and a bad culture. . . . we’re already known worldwide as being #1 in mortgage fraud, #1 in Medicare/Medicaid fraud, #2 in home foreclosures, and corrupt politicians. . . .I have known my hometown in its hayday with superb entertainment, hotel service, and mannerable citizens and know her on hard times. We’re on the brink of being a major player (no pun intended) in the world and hopefully those with a myopic view will soon realize this. I miss the once incredibly beautiful grand dame of racing. . .Hialeah Park. . . where people from around the world came to race their ponies and spend $$$’s.
    That’s my take on the Genting group. . . the architecture of the resort remind me a bit of the opera house in Sydney. . . first class. As you are a Miamian you know full well her potential. . . don’t sell her short. . . I’m not.

  2. 2 Roy Jahn said at 10:27 am on October 17th, 2011:

    If we don’t want Miami to become a Las Vegas, then keep the Las Vegas (like the Las Vegas Sands) people out. But its naive to believe we don’t already have gambling – We do, we just gave all the business away to the Indians. This Genting project is a great fit for Miami – world class facility, good jobs, investment and our community and NO links to Vegas. Lets be smart Miami, our future depends on it.

  3. 3 Silver said at 3:28 pm on October 17th, 2011:

    Disagree with you and F. Santiago.
    Agree with Anna Louise.
    Miami is so much more to start with than Las Vegas ever was or will be. We aren’t going to ‘be built’ on a gambling economy. Bringing this project will simply be another aspect of Miami that both tourists and locals will enjoy. People already come here to escape ‘real’ life. As Anna mentioned, we already have our problems. But we have so many other positives for people to see and do here and the casino resorts will only add to the positives. The poeple in the wynwood/Design District areas should be thrilled with the amount of people this could attract who will spill over into their areas. Of course it may mean SoBe could lose some business, but many of us locals think that area is overrated and overpriced anyway.

  4. 4 bill cooke said at 10:36 pm on October 17th, 2011:

    Sorry, bit it’s not completely accurate to say that she’s a “Pulitzer Prize winner.”

    The prize was awarded to the paper in 1993 for “Meritorious public service.”

    No one writer or photographer can claim that he or she is a “Pulitzer Prize” winner. Indeed, on her website she says she ‘shared the prize’. It’s not the same as winning one individually. Not even close.

  5. 5 Jordan Melnick said at 11:36 pm on October 17th, 2011:

    Right, she shared the prize. From her Herald bio: “She was the founding city editor and managing editor of the Spanish-language El Nuevo Herald from 1987 to 1993, and in 2001, shared in a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the federal government seizure of the child Elian González.” I suppose I set the Pulitzer up as an important credential by mentioning it in the first sentence, but, in fact, I would have similarly praised the piece if she were an intern. The content speaks for itself. No need to drag out the CV.


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