‘Would Casinos Hurt Miami’s Art Scene?’

By | February 1st, 2012 | 1 Comment

-- photo by Hadrian via shutterstock.com

This is the question I address in a piece I wrote for The Atlantic Cities, a very cool online section of The Atlantic that explores “innovative ideas and pressing issues facing today’s global cities and neighborhoods” and a must-read for people interested in how Miami can explode its own potential.

With the Florida legislature currently considering expanding gambling statewide and Genting hoping to build a mega casino called Resorts World Miami on Biscayne Bay, many Miamians are debating whether the expected jobs are worth the expected increase in crime, traffic, and other feared downsides. But how the expansion of gambling to include mega casinos — a whole different beast than anything in Miami’s existing gambling infrastructure — may affect Miami’s emerging arts community, in which so much hope and money have been invested over the last decade, is also a crucial question, and one without a clear-cut answer.

Art Basel Miami Beach has hinted that it may move elsewhere if Miami turns into — or appears to be turning into — Las Vegas East. At the same time, one gambling industry analyst I spoke to believes a mega casino could help Miami artists by employing them. With no existing research on the correlation between casinos and the vitality of the arts in their host cities’, it is hard to predict what will happen in Miami if Genting gets its way.

Nonetheless, that is exactly what I try to do in my story. To give it a read, head over to The Atlantic Cities. After, I’d like to know what you think. Will expanding gambling in Miami hobble its cultural development? Or is the expansion a gamble worth taking?

Follow Beached Miami on Twitter (@beachedmiami) and Facebook and email and RSS.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Downtown Miami, squared

By | September 19th, 2011 | 6 Comments

Here’s a thought: We celebrate the fact that Downtown Miami abuts a beautiful body of water called Biscayne Bay by clearing space for a public park/square where we citizens can enjoy a respite from the gridlock and exhaust of urban life. I know, in a car-centric, casino-craving, condo-glutted metropolis like Miami, it is hard to imagine that we would ever gift ourselves such a place. Fortunately, someone has rendered the mirage for us.

The sketch appeared (attributed to no one, oddly) on Saturday in a Miami Herald opinion piece by District 7 commissioner Xavier L. Suarez. In the column, Suarez hails the park as an alternative to the casinos so many lobbyists — including School Board member Carlos Curbelo — want to proliferate downtown. He goes on to challenge the Genting Group, which recently bought the Herald building and intends to build a Dubai-worthy (i.e., embarrassingly gaudy) resort complex in its place, complete with a casino if possible.

The Genting principals have indicated that they want their hotels to be casinos. They have also said that they will build their project regardless of whether gaming is approved. I say we hold them to their word, and offer them the alternative of being connected to the world’s most enticing urban public space, with cultural, recreational and artistic facilities congregated into one contiguous venue.

Read the rest of this entry »