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Malaysian Casino Operator In 'Wait & See' Mode On Gambling In Florida

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) -- Genting Americas, the Malaysian casino giant that was at the forefront of a failed push to expand gambling in Florida last year, is proceeding with plans to eventually demolish the historic Miami Herald building on the bank of Biscayne Bay.

The media giant's waterfront complex, purchased by Genting for a reported $236 million in 2011, is to be replaced with a 500-room luxury hotel a pair of condo towers and retail space.

As for the desired $2 billion mega-casino: "I couldn't say we've entirely abandoned it," Jessica Hoppe, general counsel and senior vice president Genting Americas, told members of the House Select Committee on Gaming on Tuesday.

In December, Genting backed off efforts to ask Florida voters in 2014 to open Florida to casino gambling through an amendment to the state Constitution.

Hoppe and Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands Corp. were asked to give overviews of their companies and gaming plans for Florida as the committee and its Senate counterpart are undertaking a two session review of gambling in Florida.

Hoppe said her company is committed to building the luxury hotel on five acres of the 14-acre waterfront site with the gambling aspects in a "mode of wait and see."

Iarossi pressed the legislators to "go big" to entice large, better-run casino operators that can build to the state's needs. Any casino proposal will have to overcome opposition to gambling lead by some large business groups.

Committee Chairman Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, said his committee will follow the lead of the Senate on gaming, which is expected to bring up a comprehensive gaming bill in 2014.

"The Senate, as probably most of you have heard, has expressed an interest in holding public meetings around the state, we're also contemplating that as well," Schenck said.

The Senate committee also is proceeding with a comprehensive study on the economic impact of both existing gaming operations in Florida and any proposed changes to the state's gaming options.

The study is expected to be completed by October.

"The News Service of Florida contributed to this report."

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