Florida Lawmakers Won’t Take Up Fontainebleau, Trump Doral Casino Proposals

Posted on: May 9, 2021, 05:45h. 

Last updated on: May 10, 2021, 10:52h.

Neither the Fontainebleau Resort nor Trump National Doral is in line to receive casino licenses when Florida lawmakers reconvene for a special session later this month. 

Florida Gaming
Senate President Wilton Simpson said the state legislature will not consider allowing the Fontainebleau owner to transfer a casino license from an existing facility to the historic Miami Beach resort. (Image: News Service of Florida)

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Spring Hill, shot down those possibilities in an interview Friday with CBS Miami.

I do not think that that’s being contemplated in this special session,” Simpson said. “Actually, I know it’s not. We put out the call yesterday and it would prohibit that type of activity.”

The move is seen as a bigger blow for Fontainebleau owner Jeffrey Soffer than former President Trump. Soffer has reportedly courted lawmakers for the ability to transfer the license he owns for the Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach to his posh Miami Beach resort. 

Earlier this year, The Miami Herald reported Soffer hosted fundraisers and events for GOP lawmakers from his $272 million yacht.

Seminole Compact Main Issue of Special Session

With the Fontainebleau and Doral news, it means the upcoming special session will focus only on gaming-related matters pertaining to the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the recently signed compact between tribal leaders and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Under the agreement, the Seminoles would hold exclusive sports betting rights for 30 years. The tribe’s seven Florida casinos also would be allowed to offer caps and roulette.

Over the next five years, the state would receive a guarantee of at least $500 million annually.

In addition to approving the compact, lawmakers are likely to take up legislation that would allow pari-mutuel licensees, such as jai alai frontons and harness and quarter-horse tracks, to “decouple,” or still offer casino-style gaming while not offering races or jai alai matches.

Lawmakers will also be asked to consider establishing a state gaming control commission.

The special session is scheduled to start a week from Monday. In a memo sent last week to senators, Simpson advised his colleagues and their staff they are expected to stay in Tallahassee until the session concludes.

Even if lawmakers approve the gaming compact in the special session, some have questioned the deal and said that it would still require voter approval.

Soffer Going (Back) to Las Vegas

While Soffer may not be getting his wish to move his casino license to his posh Miami Beach resort, he’s still getting in on another casino project.

Actually, he’s getting back in a project he started more than a decade and a half ago.

In February, Koch Real Estate Investments announced it had partnered with Fontainebleau Development to buy the Las Vegas Strip project currently known as The Drew.

However, 16 years ago, Soffer and his team unveiled plans to build a Las Vegas version of the Fontainebleau. His company bought a nearly four acre lot for $97 million in March 2005, with construction work starting two years later.

Plans called for the Las Vegas Fontainebleau to have about 2,900 hotel rooms with a 95,000-square-foot casino and other amenities.

The project, though, fell through after Bank of America withdrew its financial support during the Great Recession.