The Malaysian based Genting Group is one of the most recognized casino operators across the world and is estimated to worth around $46 billion. The casino giant is caught up in a legal tussle with the Miami-Dade County over a dispute about property tax assessments on the Miami Herald’s bayfront campus which the company purchased back in 2011 for $236 million.
The Genting Group purchased a prime piece of real estate which included nine individual properties, one of which being the Herald Plaza that housed the famous Miami Herald building. The campus also included a number of parking lots and iconic Boulevard shops on Biscayne Boulevard. Genting had plans to build a massive casino resort on the property but has so far not received permission to do so.
The Miami-Dade County assessor provided an evaluation on the property in 2012 and fixed it at $132 million but the evaluation was rejected by the Value Adjustment Board (VAB), a quasi-judicial panel who slashed the estimate by 33 percent and reduced it to $88 million. A similar scenario occurred in 2013 and 2014 as the VAB continued to overrule the county assessor’s evaluation and reduced the amounts by 25 percent and 20 percent. The reduction by the VAB has come at a time when property prices in Miami-Dade County have sky-rocketed.
Miami-Dade County has not been happy with the decisions made by VAB over the Genting property as the county has had to pay out refunds amounting to $2,322,434, out of which $68,984 still remains pending. To make matters worse, Miami-Dade County has had to pay a 12 percent interested on the amount due which brings the overall amount to $255,334.
The County decided to take the legal route and has so far filed three separate lawsuits on behalf of Pedro Garcia, the county property appraised. All three lawsuits were filed against Resorts World Miami alleging that the reductions made by VAB were excessive and as a result wanted the courts to reverse those decisions. Resorts World has filed a counter-suit stating that the property appraiser’s office had incorrectly inflated the taxable value of its properties in the beginning. As of now, the courts have not held any formal hearings in any of the three lawsuits.
One Miami attorney who specializes in VAB appeals, Barry Sharpe of the Property Tax Appeal Group, said reductions of the proportion Genting won are not unprecedented but are certainly uncommon.
Barry Sharpe, a Miami based lawyer from the Property Tax Appeal Group made the observation that in his experience the size of the reductions made by VAB on the Genting property was not unheard of but it was certainly not common. In a statement, Sharpe said “They definitely sound unusual. I’m not privy to the information. But 25 percent is a relatively significant reduction. It’s not typical.” Sharpe states that the average reduction on property tax assessments is around ten percent.