Miami Beach mayor warns against quiet efforts to create new casinos.
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Tallahassee Republican leaders are considering a plan to allow gambling license owners to transfer to casinos in locations that have banned gaming. This would create a conflict between local authorities, anti-gaming forces, and state legislators in Florida.
Gelber expressed his concerns at the meeting of the city commission. He said that private discussions in Tallahassee could lead to legislation that would permit a casino at Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Jeffrey Soffer, the Fontainebleau’s owner and the Big Easy Casino of Broward County, has been pushing for years for the legalization of gambling at his Beach resort.
Gelber also mentioned Genting Group’s efforts to build a casino resort. Genting Group owns the Miami Herald bayfront property. The Washington Post also reported Wednesday that the Trump Organization was lobbying Tallahassee to allow a casino at Trump National Doral Miami.
Gelber stated, “This is a horrifying moment,” and later told the Miami Herald that the measure “is going first to help give the Fontainebleau, then one of the other two locations.”
However, attempts to reach Fontainebleau or the Trump Organization were unsuccessful immediately.
Gelber brought up the topic Wednesday before a unanimous vote to authorize an acting city attorney, to hire outside counsel, to “if necessary, initiate legal challenges to any action taken by the Florida Legislature to permit casino gambling within the City of Miami Beach” or in Miami-Dade County. However, it does not appear that a bill has yet been filed.
Commissioner Ricky Arriola stated that gambling is not allowed on Miami Beach. “We will fight tooth and nail.”
Florida law currently prohibits the transfer of gambling licenses Casino Miami. The state rejected the 2014 attempt by Hallandale Beach casino Gulfstream Park to transfer a parimutuel license to the Omni hotel complex owned by Genting.
Billionaire Norman Braman and Armando Codina (developer) called Wednesday’s video meeting to warn the commission about the negative impacts of a casino expansion on the local community. They pledged to resist the move.
Codina, a real-estate investor who has made significant investments in Doral, stated that “it would change the fabric and community forever.”
The efforts to expand gaming and Miami Beach’s opposition have been around for decades and have fluctuated over the years.
Genting, which had purchased the Miami Herald’s bayfront property in 2011, pushed to change Florida’s gambling laws. It also planned to build a mega-casino resort. Sheldon Adelson (the late owner of Las Vegas Sands) was a major GOP donor. He also tried unsuccessfully to loosen the state’s gambling restrictions.
Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment two years ago that required gaming expansions to be subject to a referendum. The compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state is also a significant influence on gambling in Florida.
Throughout it all, Miami Beach politicians have made it clear that they don’t want casinos on their barrier islands or anywhere close to it. Fontainebleau is a place where Soffer spent years trying to establish gaming rights. This has been one of their most significant concerns.