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Proposed Legislation by State Senator Aims to Increase Casino Presence in South Florida

Quick Intro

Senator Blaise Ingoglia is championing a bold new bill in Florida, SB 1054, which he filed on Dec. 21, aiming to significantly expand gaming opportunities in South Florida, despite facing resistance from local communities. This proposed legislation seeks to facilitate the relocation of existing gaming permit holders to new sites within a 30-mile radius, potentially paving the way for more casinos in the region.

However, the bill sets certain geographic restrictions, specifically prohibiting the transfer of permits to locations within 15 miles of casinos operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida in Hollywood. This move comes as the Seminole Tribe plans to introduce expanded casino games, following the terms of the 2021 Gaming Compact.

Bill Viewed as Potential Favoritism Towards Florida Republicans

The 2021 compact, which granted the Seminole Tribe the rights to offer various betting options, also included an agreement to increase their monthly contributions to the state. In return, they would not oppose new casinos in South Florida. SB 1054 reflects similar conditions:

The bill stipulates that a relocated pari-mutuel facility, especially one authorized for slot machine operation, cannot be established within a 15-mile radius of any Broward County Seminole Tribe facility with class III gaming, as per the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.

This legislation could notably benefit billionaire Jeffrey Soffer, owner of the Big Easy Casino and co-owner of MiamiBeach’s Fontainebleau Hotel. Soffer has been lobbying for permission to establish a casino at the Fontainebleau, which is conveniently located outside the 15-mile exclusion zone around the Seminole Tribe’s Hollywood casino. Donald Trump, owner of Trump National Doral, also stands to gain, as his property lies just beyond the 15-mile limit.

Controversy Surrounding the Proposed Gaming Expansion in Florida

The bill, however, has drawn criticism, as outlined in a CBS News report. Former Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, a long-time opponent of gambling expansion, argues that the bill is unnecessary:

Our thriving economy and flourishing hospitality sector don’t need the addition of casinos. Casinos often just benefit a select few at the expense of the broader community,” Gelber stated.

Gelber points to a 2018 constitutional amendment, backed by Florida voters, which grants them exclusive rights to decide on casino gambling expansions. The Seminole Tribe, which supported this amendment, may now find itself in conflict with the new proposal.

Despite this, Gelber and other casino opponents insist that any such expansion should receive voter approval, anticipating staunch resistance from anti-gambling advocates who are keen to maintain local regulations against gaming expansion.

Final Thoughts

Senator Ingoglia’s proposed bill, SB 1054, aiming to expand gaming in South Florida, has sparked a debate over the benefits and drawbacks of increased casino presence. While it holds potential economic gains and opportunities for certain stakeholders, it also faces significant opposition from those concerned about the impact on local communities and the integrity of existing gambling regulations. This bill highlights the complex balance between economic development and community values in the realm of casino expansion.




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