Alabama Tribe Looks To Take Over Iconic Miami-Area Casino

Written By J.R. Duren on December 9, 2022
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The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is making more moves in Florida.

The Alabama-based group has agreed to purchase Miami’s Magic City Casino, further expanding its influence in Florida. The tribe already operates multiple facilities in the state, including Pensacola Greyhound Track & Poker Room.

The acquisition is an important one for the tribe. Magic City is a well-known Miami-area casino, and its owners, West Flagler Associates, have made headlines as the driving force behind a lawsuit that ended sports betting in Florida.

Though the tribe and West Flagler agreed to a deal, it’s on hold for now, thanks to the Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC).

Florida Gaming Control Commission halts sale

The news about the Poarch acquisition broke earlier this month. The sale had been in the works for months. The Band first submitted an application for transfer of ownership back in October, according to FGCC records.

The transfer would give the Poarch 100% ownership of the property. The acquisition means the tribe will also get licenses for pari-mutuel operations, a card room, and slot machines.

However, shortly after the sale hit the headlines, the FGCC put the brakes on it. The commission met on Dec. 1 to discuss the sale. Because of how Florida laws work, many of the pages of the Poarch’s application were redacted. FGCC Chairman John MacIver didn’t like that; the public has a right to know what’s in the application, the South Florida Business Journal reported.

If there was an over-redaction of materials…it would be inappropriate to take action at this time,” MacIver was quoted as saying.

FGCC action could tank the acquisition

West Flager’s attorney said he’d be happy to provide a less-redacted version of the application. However, he told the commission that he worried that delaying the application approval could ruin the sale, according to SFBJ.

The attorney went on to allude that the FGCC was complicating a simple transaction, noting that the two parties did everything the FGCC asked of them.

Does the Poarch’s growing influence scare the Seminole?

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is the king of gaming in Florida and they rule with an iron fist. They poured millions of dollars into ad campaigns to kill an amendment that would’ve allowed sports betting in the state via outside operators. They have a lot of sway with lawmakers in Tallahassee. They also operate the state’s only Class III gaming facilities.

The tribe likely sees the Poarch tribe’s move as a threat. The Poarch have multiple properties in the United States and abroad including a new property in the Chicago area and locations in Aruba and Curaçao. They negotiated a gaming compact with Alabama although the legislation the compact was tied to failed. They certainly have the resources to gain a solid foothold in the Florida casino industry.

The Seminole tribe knows that and it’s likely why they sent one of their attorneys to the FGCC meeting on their behalf. The attorney’s argument, according to the SFBJ, is that the application needs to be more transparent and the FGCC needs to do an in-depth review of Florida’s slot machine regulations.

The Seminole’s argument is an ironic one considering its sports betting compact with the state took place behind closed doors.

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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