Senate Bill Would Allow Relocation of Gambling Permits in Florida

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The Florida Historic Capitol sits near the 22-story New Capitol building, which together are part of the Capitol Complex on July 26, 2023 in Tallahassee, Florida.

A bill introduced in the Florida Senate would allow gambling permits to be relocated. The move is raising questions about whether the legislation is intended to bring new casinos to Miami-Dade County. Let’s go through the main points regarding this process and how could it impact sports betting in Florida.

Transfer of Gaming Permits

Senate Bill 1054, proposed by State Senator Blaise Ingoglia, proposes that gaming permit holders should be permitted to transfer their permits to a new location.

The bill aims to remove the stipulation in the application process overseen by the Florida Gaming Control Commission that obliges certain permit holders to demonstrate that their permits have not faced disapproval or recall in subsequent elections.

The legislation would also allow those with greyhound dog racing permits to conduct casino activities to move their operation of “all pari-mutuel wagering and gaming activities” to a location within a 30-mile radius, regardless of any local government regulations that might say otherwise.

The state banned dog racing in 2020 after amending its constitution.

There is Opposition to the SB 1054

The proposal raised concerns among gaming opponents who have been working to prevent the expansion of gambling into new areas of South Florida.

“It poses an existential threat to our community,” former Miami Mayor Dan Gelber told the Tampa Bay Times. Gelber served as the mayor of Miami Beach until last month and has been a longstanding advocate against gaming.

Gelber also told CBS News that he doesn’t think South Florida needs this type of legislation because, “Our economy is thriving, people are coming here, and we have a wonderful hospitality industry. All casinos do is cannibalize everybody else to usually just the benefit of a single person or business,” Gelber said.

Who Would Benefit From Such a Change?

One of the primary beneficiaries of this legislation would be billionaire Jeffrey Soffer, who owns the Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach. Soffer’s family also owns the iconic Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach and has been advocating for legislation that would allow a casino to open there.

Ingoglia’s bill would permit Soffer to make such a move. However, the legislation does restrict new gaming options in a way, stating that a permit cannot be moved to a location within 15 miles of Seminole Tribe of Florida-operated casinos in Hollywood.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida recently agreed to a new Gaming Compact with the state, which is fully coming online now after a slate of legal challenges. The Fontainebleau Hotel, however, is outside that 15-mile radius from the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s nearby Hollywood casino.

Donald Trump would also stand to gain from this legislation, given his ownership of Trump National Doral, located just beyond the 15-mile threshold from the Seminole Tribe’s Hollywood casino.

Gambling Battle in Florida Not Short-Lived

The issue of how much gambling should be allowed in Florida has been a topic of debate for several years.

Since May 2021, online sports betting has been legal statewide, and the Seminole Tribe launched mobile gaming shortly after regulated sports betting laws were on the books. However, several lawsuits were filed in Florida not long after the initial release by those who claimed that “the measure violated a constitutional amendment requiring voter approval or the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”

A recent decision by the US Supreme Court to lift the temporary hold on Florida’s 2021 gambling agreement with the Tribe reopened the door to online gaming.

So, this battle appears to be far from over. Bookmakers’ Review will continue to follow the developments and provide updates when they are warranted.