Dick In The News

With more that 35 years of experience, Dick Batchelor is consistently
sought out to provide expert commentary on business and governmental affairs. Read more about his appearances in the news below.

Casinos a big draw for convention business?

This article first appeared in the Orlando Business Journal. View original here
16 Jan
Casinos a big draw for convention business?

Among the biggest arguments for supporters of casino gambling in Florida: It would boost the region’s economy by luring in more conventions and meetings.

Many point to Las Vegas as an example, since it seems to have the right recipe in terms of attracting conventions.

The gambling mecca hosted nearly 16,000 conventions and meetings with more than 4.3 million attendees in the first 10 months of 2011, the most recent data available.

The events, casino revenue and taxes generated from conventions during the first 10 months of 2011 exceeded $15.5 billion in economic impact in Vegas.

In comparison, Central Florida hosted only 888 conventions and meetings last year, attracting 1.34 million attendees and generating a $1.4 billion economic impact.

But Orlando comes out on top when looking at the total number of business and leisure travelers: roughly 54 million visitors for 2011, compared to 33 million in Vegas as of October, the most recent data available. Central Florida’s tourism industry generates roughly $28 billion annually in visitor spending.

And now state lawmakers are looking at possibly letting Miami have three casino resorts, which may open the door to casinos here someday. Some businesspeople think that, in turn, would supercharge the local convention and meetings industry.

“Could casinos allow more conventions to come to Central Florida?” said Alan Villaverde, executive director at The Peabody Orlando on International Drive. “Maybe so. There’s no doubt we will see a threat in Miami in terms of convention business if it is allowed to become a mini-Las Vegas and we don’t answer back.”

Villaverde said if the law is passed, Orlando could capitalize on it by allowing casinos to be built along International Drive. “Convention business makes up to 80 percent of our business, so we would want to level the playing field.”

Executives of several of Central Florida’s top conventions coming this year, including the National Plastics Showcase and the IAAPA Attractions Expo, declined to comment on whether the presence of casinos would make this area more attractive to them.

The Orange County Convention Center has not taken a stance on gaming. But event planners ask for grown-up entertainment options when inquiring about the center, said Tom Ackert, executive director.

“If there is anything Vegas holds over us, it’s in its quantity and quality of entertainment options for adults.”

Sound bites

How do you feel about casinos in Central Florida?

“I don’t think casinos are very conducive to our family-friendly market," said Dick Batchelor, president of Dick Batchelor Management Group. "It won’t harm our theme parks, but it wouldn’t help or even fit with who we are. Las Vegas has tried to merge the two, but it wasn’t successful.”