Billionaires Defeat a Plan to Open a Miami Beach Casino

Billionaires Defeat a Plan to Open a Miami Beach Casino

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Off the table

A group of powerful billionaires in Miami have stood in the way of plans for a casino in Miami Beach. Senate Bill 1054, which aimed to develop a casino at the Fontainebleau Hotel, was set for a hearing on Monday in the Senate Regulated Industries committee. It was taken off the meeting agenda after news of the major opposition from the local business leaders became apparent.

Senate Spokeswoman Katie Betta confirmed on Wednesday that this bill no longer “had a way forward.” Senate Regulated Industries Chairperson Joe Gruters, meanwhile, confirmed that the committee pulled the bill after hearing that the House would not pass it. Both the House and Senate would need to approve the bill for it to receive passage, although Gruters added that its chances might be better next year.

made plans to fly over 100 Miami Beach officials and residents to Tallahassee

The bill’s main oppopnents, billionaire Norman Braman and property tycoon Armando Codina, made plans to fly more than 100 Miami Beach officials and residents to Tallahassee for Monday’s hearing before its cancellation. One of the other big opponents to the casino plan was Citadel Founder Ken Griffin. He sent a letter to the Miami Herald condemning the proposal.

An ambitious plan

Jeffrey Soffer, a billionaire who owns the historic Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, was the main proponent behind the legislation for obvious reasons. In 2023 alone, entities linked to the 56-year-old provided more than $300,000 to political campaigns in the region, as well as $1m to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ now-ended presidential campaign.

The bill that Soffer hoped he could get over the line would have allowed holders of gaming permits to transfer them to another location within 30 miles of the existing facility, superseding any restrictions that local governments have on gambling.

Soffer owns the Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach, which is approximately 14 miles from the Fontainebleau. An official ban has been in place in Miami Beach on gaming facilities since 2017. The legislation would have allowed him to transfer the Big Easy Casino license to his Fontainebleau Hotel.

Opposition to the bill

Miami Beach officials believe the bill is “unconstitutional,” arguing that voters have the exclusive right to authorize any form of casino law expansion since a state-wide referendum in 2018. Politicians are unable to proceed with such legislation without consulting locals as a result.

akin to “willingly dumping toxic waste into the Everglades”

Ken Griffin, in his letter to the Miami Herald, insisted that casinos bring addiction, crime, and erode the quality of life in communities. Allowing a casino would be akin to “willingly dumping toxic waste into the Everglades,” according to the hedge fund owner.

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