Among possible losers if the slots referendum passes are gaming-boat operators. At least one already is fighting to survive.
Moe Noonan, 83-year-old Hollywood resident and hard-core gambler, boards a gaming ship five days a week for the pleasure of sitting at a blackjack table for a few hours.
Noonan, though, hates taking an hourlong boat trip to international waters before he’s able to gamble.
”It’s a pain,” he barked the other day before sailing on the St. Tropez in Port Everglades. “At least at a casino, after two hours I can go. I can’t drive home from the boat. I’ve got to stay there.”
Gambling boats could be big losers if residents in Miami-Dade and Broward vote March 8 in favor of permitting slot machines at seven racetracks and jai-alai frontons.
Noonan says he’s voting for it. The gambling cruise is a five-hour or more commitment. At a racetrack or fronton, he could come and go as he pleases.
He figures if if slots are approved it’s only a matter of time before blackjack tables show up alongside the slots.
South Florida’s ”cruise to nowhere” businesses are already sailing in choppy financial seas. In the past year, the boats were battered by an unprecedented hurricane season, paid higher fuel costs and were dealt a formidable rival in the $410 million Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.
Three South Florida Togel gaming ships reported a drop-off in customers, including one that lost more than a third of its business.
St. Tropez Casino Cruises this month became the latest in a procession of casino-boat operators that have sought shelter from creditors by filing for bankruptcy protection. Some see the threat from slots as enough to sink the entire industry in South Florida.
The bankruptcies indicate that the cruise boats are often a marginal business, said Bob Sturges, president of Coral Gables-based Sturges Hospitality Consulting. He is a consultant to Flagler Dog Track — one of the beneficiaries if voters approve slots — and advised Dania Beach-based SunCruz Casinos’ unsecured creditors …