Fontainebleau Miami Owner Hopes Political Donations Secure New Casino

Posted on: January 14, 2024, 08:14h. 

Last updated on: January 15, 2024, 12:05h.

With multiple gaming expansion bills on the docket in the Florida legislature this year, Fontainebleau Miami Beach owner Jeffrey Soffer has been opening his wallet to state politicians in hopes of bringing a casino to the famed hotel.

Fontainebleau Miami Beach
Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Owner Jeffrey Soffer is donating to Florida politicians in hopes of building a casino in Miami Beach. (Image: Inside Miami Beach)

Recent campaign finance reports indicate groups with ties to the real estate developer donated more than $300K last year to political action committees (PACs). Those contribute to various Florida lawmakers’ campaigns. Some of those contributions were directed to nine Republicans who represent various parts of Miami-Dade County.

Those political donations came in advance of the Florida legislature, which is in session for just two months this year. They are hearing proposals that could finally open the door to long sought-after casino hotels in the Miami area.

Specifically, the bills say those with greyhound dog racing permits and authorization to conduct casino activities — such as Soffer’s Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach — should be allowed to relocate the operation of ‘all pari-mutuel wagering and gaming activities,’” reports Aaron Leibowitz and Ana Ceballos for the Miami Herald.

Soffer and Trump National Doral, which is controlled by the Trump Organization, attempted to procure gaming licenses in 2021. But those efforts faltered.

Miami Casinos Still Viewed as Long Shots

Along with New York, Miami Beach is arguably one of the most coveted, though untapped, casino markets in the U.S.

Miami Beach, which is incorporated separately from Miami, has officially banned casinos since 2017, indicating that changing that regulation could be costly and time-consuming.

John Sowinski, who runs the “No Casinos” group, told the Herald that Miami Beach is one of the most anti-gaming locales in the state, and that frequent attempts to bring casinos to the city further embolden citizens there to oppose those efforts.

Sowinski previously led the “Voters in Charge” group that pushed the Amendment 3 ballot initiative in the 2018 mid-term election. That amendment, which was passed with ease, requires that any casino gaming expansion in Florida be approved by voters.

Even if the Miami Beach casino effort were to make progress, it would likely draw the ire of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The parent of Hard Rock casinos has a grip on land-based gaming venues in the state, and the financial resources to stifle related expansion in which they are not involved.

Fontainebleau Miami Widespread Donations

Groups with ties to Fontainebleau and Big Easy Casino donated $50K to the Republican Party of Florida last September, and $25K last June to the Florida Senatorial Republican Campaign Committee.

Another $15K was contributed to Principled Moral Conservatism last September, a PAC controlled by a state representative whose district is in Miami-Dade County. Campaign finance data indicate entities with ties to Soffer also contributed $10K to another eight Republican-controlled PACs.

Soffer isn’t new to contributing to Florida political campaigns. Since he acquired the Big Easy Casino in 2018, he’s doled out $2.5 million in contributions to Sunshine State politicians, including GOP presidential candidate and Gov. Ron DeSantis.