Cordish Companies Mixed-Use Development in Florida Causes Uproar

Posted on: February 10, 2022, 07:46h. 

Last updated on: February 10, 2022, 01:18h.

Baltimore-based gaming operator Cordish Companies shares a similar wish among the nation’s largest casino companies dreaming of entering Florida. While lawsuits and legislative efforts continue to play out regarding the Seminole Tribe’s monopoly on casino gambling, and potentially iGaming and sports betting, Cordish is seeking to build a $500 million mixed-use development near Orlando.

Cordish Companies Orlando jai alai Florida
The Orlando Jai Alai Fronton is pictured in a file photograph. Gaming giant Cordish Companies wants to transform the former pari-mutuel facility into a mixed-use development at a cost of $500 million. (Image: Orlando Sentinel)

The Cordish Companies owns and operates the Live! brand of casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The company has additionally developed numerous residential and retail complexes in multiple states.

Cordish hopes one of its next endeavors is constructing a Live! destination on the former grounds of the Orlando Jai Alai Fronton in Seminole County. The venue, which closed in 2009, is less than 10 miles north of Orlando in Casselberry.

Poker Barricade

The former Orlando Jai Alai Fronton is currently being leased by a local church for its weekly congregations. But owner RD Management, a real estate developer based in New York City, wants to transform the property into a commercial retail and residential community.

RD Management has partnered with Cordish on pitching Seminole County a $500 million undertaking. The plan calls for 1,200 luxury apartments, high-end retail, restaurants, and a sports bar complemented by a poker room.

The poker element stands to prevent the development from moving forward. Seminole County voters passed a local ordinance in 1996 that requires casino proposals in the county to only be approved by way of the people’s blessing.

Cordish and RD Management told the Seminole County this week that the poker element represents just five percent of the proposed development’s floor space. The companies asked the Seminole County Board of Directors to put the gaming question before voters for the November 2022 election without first gaining signatures from area voters.

The developers argued that the ongoing canvassing across Florida regarding a campaign to legalize commercial casinos in the northern part of the state could be confused with its own petition ask.

We would get misunderstood,” said David Cordish, chairman of The Cordish Companies. “It’s a small social [environment]. It would be a mistake for us to go out in the face of these massive petition drives that are going on that we have nothing to do with.”

Cordish requested that the board place its poker question on the November ballot without obtaining the 25,000 signatures that are typically required. However, the board didn’t go for it, voting unanimously 5-0 against the Cordish appeal.

Project Future

With the Seminole County Board rejecting Cordish’s efforts to bypass the signature-gathering stipulation, company officials say it’s back to the drawing board.

“It’s not possible to get 25,000 signatures in three months,” concluded Mark Jones, an attorney working on behalf of Cordish. Proposed ballot questions must be submitted with the necessary signatures by May 16.

Poker isn’t a big moneymaker for casinos, compared with house-banked games like blackjack, craps, and roulette. But the popular game lures in customers, patrons who would be expected to purchase food and beverage and perhaps shop at the nearby stores.

Seminole County Commissioner Andria Herr said she hopes the project can move forward without poker. “I can’t get past that if the poker room doesn’t go through, we can’t go through with this project,” she stated after voting against the poker plea.