Sen. Blaise Ingoglia has high hopes for a new Florida bill that could bring major gaming venues despite local opposition. The new legislation could open the door to more Florida casinos in the southern part of the state.
Ingoglia filed the new legislation, SB 1054, on Dec. 21 in the Florida Senate. The bill would allow existing gaming permit holders to relocate their operations to a new location within a 30-mile radius.
The legislation limits new gaming options, saying a permit cannot be moved to a location within 15 miles from Seminole Tribe of Florida-operated casinos in Hollywood.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida has recently announced plans to move forward with expanded casino games based on the 2021 Gaming Compact.
Provision seen by some as a favor to Florida Republicans
The 2021 compact gave the Seminole Tribe permission to offer in-person sports betting, online sports betting and craps roulette. It settled to increase its monthly pay to the state, agreeing they would not raise objections to any casinos built in South Florida.
Mirroring language in the 2021 deal, SB 1054 says:
“A pari-mutuel permitholder that relocates its pari-mutuel facility pursuant to subsection and that is authorized to operate slot machines at such facility may not relocate the pari-mutuel facility to a location in Miami-Dade or Broward Counties which is within a 15-mile radius, measured in a straight line, of any facility in Broward County operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida which offers or is authorized to offer class III gaming, as defined in the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.”
One big beneficiary from the legislation could be Jeffrey Soffer. He’s a billionaire and the owner of the Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach. His family possesses the famous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach and has been urging legislation to allow a casino to open there.
The Fontainebleau Hotel falls outside that 15-mile radius from the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s nearby Hollywood casino. The new bill would allow Soffer and his family to open a casino in the desired location.
Another beneficiary would be Donald Trump. As he owns Trump National Doral, just past 15 miles from the Seminoles’ Hollywood casino.
Proposed Florida bill draws opponents
According to a CBS News article, Dan Gelber, a former Miami Beach mayor who has fought against gambling expansion in Florida, said the bill is not necessary:
“I don’t think that we need it. Our economy is thriving, people are coming here, and we have a wonderful hospitality industry. All casinos do is cannibalize everybody else to usually just the benefit of a single person or business.”
Gelber is alluding to a 2018 constitutional amendment approved in a statewide referendum. It gave Florida voters the exclusive right to authorize casino gambling expansions. The Seminole Tribe supported the amendment back then.
Gelber and other opponents of new casinos would argue that the new proposal would need to be approved by voters. Even so, Ingoglia’s bill will face many anti-gambling advocates opposing any efforts to prevail local regulations that ban gaming expansion.