POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – A group of former racetrack workers has raised concerns that a Pompano Beach casino expansion project may displace threatened burrowing owls living on the property’s soon-to-be-developed racetrack.
Isle Casino Pompano will rebrand as Harrah’s Pompano Beach and add approximately 15,000 square feet to its casino, including a parking garage and an additional 12,500 square feet of outdoor gaming.
The casino ended harness racing earlier this year and the track and the land surrounding it will play home to the casino expansion. But, as Nancy Schaut points out, the land is also home to a number of burrowing owls, a threatened species under Florida law.
Schaut knows this well, because she spent decades of her life at the track, working with the racehorses that entertained fans for nearly 60 years. She’s among a group of other former track workers who worry that the expansion will be devastating to the casino property’s burrowing owl population.
“This is 200 acres of land that is being taken away from the owls and all of the other animals because we have many,” Schaut said. “What I’m worried about is they are going to be left homeless or hurt or killed. So I am very much concerned.”
“There is now going to be construction and destruction,” she added.
On Wednesday, Schaut said after hard work trying to get in touch with the developers, she was able to arrange a meeting between her group and casino executives to show them exactly where the owls live.
“It’s a home for them,” she said. “It can’t be brought back. You aren’t going to manufacture more land. It’s been a trend that needs to stop.”
Local 10 News spoke with members of the group that met with casino officials Wednesday afternoon. They said the casino has begun to put up fencing around some, but not all burrows on the racetrack.
Casino staff said workers will “take every measure they have to” in order to protect the owls.
Local 10 News has reached out to casino management for comment but has not heard back as of Wednesday afternoon.