With all of the developments and controversies surrounding Florida’s gambling expansion and compact with the Seminole Tribe, the rejection of casino proposals from Trump Doral and Fontaunbleau have taken a backseat. However, as the special session, scheduled for later in May, approaches many have turned their attention to the proposals and aspects that were not included in the gaming compact.
President of Florida’s Senate, Wilton Simpson, shared that lawmakers had rejected two casino proposals in an interview. According to Simpson’s statement, he shared that he does not think that these proposals will be considered during the special session. He later confirmed that he is sure that it will not be discussed as the Senate had recently considered it and deemed the activities to be prohibited.
While the Trump Doral rejection is a blow, the proposal brought forward by Jefferey Soffer for the Fontainebleau and its rejection is likely to cause an even bigger stir. Inside sources have shared that Soffar has spent significant resources to court Florida lawmakers and convince them to allow him to transfer his license from Hallandale Beach’s Big Easy Casino, owned by Soffar, to his luxurious resort in Miami Beach. Just earlier this year, Soffar hosted several events and fundraisers for lawmakers from his personal yacht, valued at around $272 million.
With the confirmation that the Doral and Fontainebleau proposals had been rejected, the upcoming session will be focusing mainly on the gambling-related concerns and issues regarding the Seminole Tribe and the gaming expansion compact that was recently signed between Governor DeSantis and the Chairman of the tribe.
According to the terms negotiated, the Seminole Tribe of Florida will be granted exclusive rights for sports betting in the state for the next 30 years. In addition to this, the tribe currently owns and operates seven casinos in Florida, on tribal lands, that will now be permitted to offer roulette and craps. This deal outlines that the state will receive an annual fee of $500 million for these gaming rights for the next five years. While some of these terms are reasonable, others are less so. As a result of this, lawmakers in the state will be reconvening for a special session to approve the gaming compact and take up necessary legislation regarding pari-mutuel licenses that will allow horse tracks and frontons to provide casino gaming facilities.
Lawmakers will also have to decide whether they agree with the establishment of a gaming control commission that would become the official regulator of all gambling activities in Florida. The session is scheduled to start on the 17th of May according to a memo sent to all senators last week by Simpson. His colleagues and fellow chamber members were requested to stay in Tallahassee until the end of the session.
If the gaming compact receives approval through this special session, there are still several hurdles to overcome. This includes federal ratification of the compact and possible litigation that could result in Floridians voting on the gaming expansion.
While Soffer was looking forward to moving his gaming venue to his posh resort in Miami Beach, he has been presented with another opportunity to return to Las Vegas for a casino project. The project that he will be working on is one that was started almost 17 years ago. Fontainebleau and Koch Real Estate took to online news sources to share that they had partnered to purchase a project on the Las Vegas Strip called The Drew.
It appears that Soffer will have the opportunity to realise a dream that he had 16 years ago. In 2005, Soffer shared his intentions of building Las Vegas it's very own version of the Fontainebleau. The company purchased a piece of land, consisting of four acres of prime real estate, for $97 million in 2005. Once plans had been finalized, construction on the project commenced two years after the purchase.
The plans showed that Las Vegas Fontainbleay would have 2,900 rooms for guests to enjoy, a 95,000 square-foot casino gaming venue and several other amenities. Unfortunately, the Bank of America was forced to withdraw its financial support of Soffer’s project due to the Great Recession.