Fontainebleau Miami Casino Bill Appears Dead — for Now

Posted on: February 1, 2024, 05:39h. 

Last updated on: February 3, 2024, 12:23h.

Legislation that would have potentially paved the way for casino expansion in South Florida appears dead after some well-heeled business owners flexed their muscles.

Fontainebleau Miami
The Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Hopes for a casino there appear dead. (Image: Miami Daily Life)

Late Wednesday, the Florida State Senate scrapped plans to consider a bill that, if signed into law, would have allowed new gaming venues to be built without voters’ consent. Such legislation runs counter to an amendment to Florida’s constitution, overwhelmingly approved by the voters in 2018, that mandates voters must decide on gaming expansion.

The news indicates hopes for a casino at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach are again dashed. Withdrawal of Senate Bill 1054 (SB 1054) arrived after Miami Beach officials voted to accept funding from local real estate developer Armando Codina and use a private jet owned by billionaire Norman Braman to fly to the state capitol in Tallahassee to lean on lawmakers to oppose the casino legislation.

Fontainebleau Miami Beach owner Jeffrey Soffer has been a backer of the Republican Party of Florida and some GOP officeholders in the state in hopes of bringing a gaming venue to the famed property.

Fontainebleau Miami Casino Looks Ill-Fated

Despite the iconic status of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach and Soffer’s efforts, polling confirms that Miami Beach residents don’t want a casino and are tired of the issue.

Soffer has donated at least $1.3 million to Florida Republicans, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, and related political action committees. While some of those contributions were directed to policymakers in the Miami-Dade area, when push came to shove, State Senate President Kathleen Passidomo — a Republican — let lawmakers from that region call the shots, and they didn’t want to consider the legislation.

A Senate spokeswoman, Katie Betta, told the Miami Herald that SB 1054 didn’t have a path to passage. Senate Regulated Industries Chairman Joe Gruters told the publication that companion legislation in the Florida House wouldn’t pass.

It remains to be seen how long the South Florida casino is off the table or if Soffer will throw in the towel for good. Soffer and Trump National Doral, controlled by the Trump Organization, attempted to procure gaming licenses in 2021.

Interesting Timing

The state Senate declining to hear SB 1054 arrived just a day after Citadel founder Ken Griffin ripped the idea of gaming expansion in an op-ed published by the Herald.

Griffin, who moved his hedge fund to Miami from Chicago, said Florida doesn’t need more gaming venues. That’s because the state is already flourishing economically, led in part by South Florida.

In criticizing SB 1054 as an effort to sidestep voters, the billionaire financier added that new casino hotels in South Florida could have unwanted consequences, including adverse effects on residential real estate prices.