Are we ready for blackjack dealers dressed up like Mickey Mouse? Instead of Blazing 7s slot machines, you win if you line up Huey, Dewey and Louie after pulling the lever?
Central Florida, home to Disney World, wants a casino. At least some of the forward-thinking planners do. They’re looking hard at their neighbors to the south, who are laying the groundwork for a gigantic gambling/entertainment/shopping complex on the Miami waterfront, and thinking why not another one, in the Orlando area? Las Vegas is often called Disneyland for adults, so why not merge the two playgrounds? The cross-promotion possibilities are endless. How about a stripper pole in Cinderella’s castle?
It’s all about the money, of course, and folks in Central Florida are concerned that big-time gambling in Miami-Dade and Broward counties will lure away some of the Orlando area's 30.5 million yearly visitors. If the Miami complex is built, families can bypass Orlando and spend a few days at the Miami casino, take in a show and then jump on a Disney cruise ship docked only a few hundred feet from their hotel room. One-stop shopping.
Convention business? Take your pick – a few nights ogling partying 20-something girls on South Beach or waiting in line at Thunder Mountain Railroad? Give me a minute on that one.
Orlando’s preemptive envy is actually being played out all over the United States. Casinos are planned in one area, and almost immediately neighboring communities are concerned about money being siphoned. No one wants a casino until someone else gets one.
Just as predictable is the opposition that arises. In Massachusetts, casino opponents say that gambling will change the character of the state. In Florida, some have joined Disney is pointing out that gambling will harm the family-friendly nature of the state’s tourism industry. Same thing in the Midwest.
Disney wields a heavy political club in the Kissimmee area, and in the end politicians may find that it’s easier to cave than introduce gambling in Oando. But it’ll be fun to see things play out in Florida, which some hope will rival Las Vegas and Macau as international gambling destinations.