In 2017, Miami Beach made the decision to ban casinos and other gambling venues within the city limits. Despite this ban, there have been ongoing efforts by gambling operators to expand their presence in the area. A recent report by the Miami Herald uncovered donations made by billionaire Jeffrey Soffer, the owner of Fontainebleau Miami Beach, to state politicians. These donations, totaling over $300,000, are seen as an attempt to push for the opening of a casino within the hotel.
The timing of these donations is significant as they came just before the start of a new legislative session. During this session, there are proposals that could potentially allow for the transfer of existing gaming licenses to new locations within 30 miles, effectively overruling local regulations. This paves the way for the possibility of casino gambling in Miami Beach.
One potential avenue for this expansion is through Soffer transferring the gaming permit from the Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach to Fontainebleau Miami Beach, a move he has been working towards since acquiring the Big Easy Casino in 2018. The report also revealed that Soffer made substantial donations through related companies to various political entities, including the Republican Party of Florida and Republican lawmakers in Miami-Dade.
Despite these efforts, the future of casino gambling in Miami Beach remains uncertain. Anti-gambling groups, such as No Casinos, have been vocal about their opposition to these efforts. John Sowinski, the president of No Casinos, highlighted Miami Beach’s strong stance against casinos, emphasizing their history as a target for casino operators.
As the debate continues, it remains to be seen whether these efforts will ultimately lead to the legalization of casino gambling in Miami Beach. The ongoing push and opposition from various stakeholders indicate that the issue is far from settled.