As legislators in Florida continue to debate legislation that could expand gambling in the southern state, local officials in the cities of Miami and Miami Beach have reportedly expressed their beliefs that any new casinos should be kept out of Miami-Dade County.
According to a report from the Miami Herald newspaper, Miami Beach commissioner Joy Malakoff has called for an emergency meeting later today to discuss whether to change local zoning laws in order to prevent any new Florida casinos from opening in the city of 88,000 people. The local legislator allegedly stated that she would like to get an immediate ban on the books as the question of expanding gaming for Miami-Dade County has been pervasive in Tallahassee for several years.
“I got involved in the “no casino” movement in the late 1980s [and] I’ve always thought that it is wrong for this city,” Malakoff told the newspaper.
The Miami Herald reported that gambling interests have eyed Miami Beach for decades and former mayor Matti Herrera Bower even attended a lunch meeting with Steve Wynn, Chief Executive Officer for Las Vegas-based casino operator Wynn Resorts Limited, in November of 2011 to discuss the possibility of bringing gambling to the island municipality.
In addition, the city’s luxury Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel has reportedly expressed an interest in applying for a slot license if Florida legislators agree to expand gambling in the state. Philip Goldfarb, President and Chief Operating Officer for the 1,504-room resort, subsequently told the newspaper that Miami Beach should not rush to zone out gambling before any final action is taken by the legislature.
“It is premature for the city commission to consider any new legislation on an issue that has not been finalized by the state legislature,” Goldfarb told the Miami Herald. “The city commission should wait and understand the economic and tourism impacts as well as the effect it could have on the city’s tax revenues.”
However, not everyone in Miami Beach is against the idea of bringing a casino to the city and local commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez reportedly told the newspaper that she would be open to such a proposition so long as there would be a way to steer a percentage of gambling revenues into local government coffers.
“If I could get recurring revenues for education and senior citizens, I would let the Fontainebleau [Miami Beach] have a casino,” Rosen Gonzalez told the Miami Herald. “The majority of residents never go there. I never go there. It is an island unto its own.”
But, Rosen Gonzalez reportedly moreover stated that any casino in Miami Beach should be required to be “like the casinos in Monte Carlo; upscale”.
In nearby Miami, mayor Tomas Regalado reportedly used a recent press conference to voice his opposition to the opening of any new downtown gaming establishments despite giving his support to Genting Group in 2011 when the Malaysian firm purchased land for the purposes of building its still-proposed $3.1 billion Resorts World Miami development. The Republican has now allegedly changed positions and is also against a recently-suggested plan from the owner of the nearby Magic City Casino to open a jai-alai fronton complete with a 25-table poker room on the west side of Biscayne Boulevard in the city’s fashionable Design District.
“Magic City [Casino] has a huge facility that now is kind of underused,” Regalado told the Miami Herald. “They have plenty of land. They could expand if they want to.”
Regalado reportedly revealed that he had held discussions with Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine about the possibility of releasing a joint statement opposing any expanded gambling in Florida while additionally declaring that he had changed his mind regarding the Resorts World Miami project due to the recent growth in other types of businesses in the area.
“The whole area has exploded with commercial and residential,” Regalado told the newspaper. “We have more residents now than ever in that area. I don’t think it’s necessary. This is not the place. Miami has enough gambling as it is. We just don’t need in the middle of downtown, not from Genting [Group], not from Magic City [Casino], any more gambling operations.”