Could gambling ultimately come to Fontainebleau and Trump Doral?

Seminole Tribe can’t contractually object under agreement

It could be possible given that they are more than 15 miles from the Seminole Hard Rock after the Seminole Tribe struck a deal that was passed in the Florida legislature this week.

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – The state legislature has approved the gambling compact with the Seminoles that would legalize sports betting by phone and give the tribe exclusive rights to offer roulette and craps at their casinos.

But not so well known is a section of the compact that could eventually bring gambling to the Fontainebleau hotel and Trump National Doral, because they are just over 15 miles away from the Seminole Hard Rock.

“There is a hotel in the city of Miami Beach waiting for a casino to be transferred over,” State Rep. Michael Grieco, D-Miami Beach, said.

He was talking about the Fontainebleau, owned by billionaire Jeffrey Soffer, who also owns The Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach, which has a casino license. Soffer wants to move the llicense to the Fontainebleau.

“We had rumblings about the interests of the former president and Trump Doral resort wanting to jump into this,” said State Rep. Nicholas Duran, D-Miami. “The issue goes to portability.”

Portability, moving casino licenses, was frowned upon during this week’s legislative special session in Tallahassee. But Soffer is playing the long game. So is former President Donald Trump. His Trump National Doral is a money loser that would become a big moneymaker with gambling.

“Magically, the Trump resort would quality and the tribe can no longer object contractually if the legislature were to decide next year or any year after that they were going to allow a casino license to transfer to that facility,” Grieco said.

The Seminole Tribe didn’t object to allowing gambling competition, as long it’s at least 15 miles away from the Seminole Hard Rock.

Trump National Doral is just 15 miles away. The Fontainebleau on Miami Beach is more than 20.

“We don’t want it here, we don’t want it in Miami, we don’t want it in South Florida,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said previously of gambling.

Local ordinances in Miami-Dade and Broward counties limit gambling to pari-mutuels. But the legislature could pass a law that overrides those ordinances.

“And I can assure you that if the legislature wants to put a casino in Trump Doral or in the Fontainebleau, the legislature will find a way to do it,” Grieco said. “But for the fact that they’ve got Amendment 3 hanging over their head.”

Amendment 3, which voters approved overwhelmingly three years ago, says you can’t expand gambling in the state without voter approval. That, though, would be a statewide vote, not just a poll of the South Florida community.

About the Author:

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter.