A Florida lawmaker filed a bill Thursday that would open the door for existing parimutuel operators to relocate in the state and bring their slot machines with them.
Senate Bill 1054, if approved by the Florida Gaming Control Commission, would let operators with a greyhound racing license, and conduct other forms of gaming, move to a new site within a 30-mile radius. The legislation was sponsored by state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill. The bill would allow permit holders to move their gaming facility to a municipality even if that city’s government has voted to prohibit gaming in their community.
Critics fear the bill could be a way for developers to move their gaming operations to Miami Beach, which has laws on the books against gambling. That could benefit Jeffrey Soffer, a Florida billionaire who owns the Fontainebleau resort in the coastal city. Last week, Soffer opened Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a nearly $4 billion casino resort on the north end of the Strip.
There are no Florida online casinos.
Soffer bought the Mardi Gras Casino five years ago, located at the Hollywood Greyhound Track in Hallandale Beach, and redeveloped it as The Big Easy Casino. That casino is within the mileage radius to relocate to the Miami Beach address for the original Fontainebleau.
Compact Allows Florida Sports Betting
At the same time, the Fontainebleau is just outside the 15-mile restricted area from Seminole Gaming casinos. That provision, which bars new casinos from opening within 15 miles of any Seminole property in Broward County, was part of the 2021 amended gaming compact tribal leaders reached with the state. That’s the same compact allowing Florida sports betting and Hard Rock Bet to offer online wagering statewide.
Ingoglia, who chairs the Senate Finance and Tax Committee, does not represent a South Florida district. His seat represents communities north of Tampa. However, at least one Miami-area senator vowed to oppose the bill.
“The bill sucks, and I look forward to it dying,” state Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, said in a text to the Miami Herald.
The Florida Legislature’s 2024 session is scheduled to start on Jan. 9. It’s slated to last two months.