Alabama Tribe Nearly Completes Purchase Of Florida Casino

Written By Steve Schult on March 3, 2023
PCI pays $96 million for Florida casino

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians completed its purchase of Magic City Casino in Miami from West Flagler Associates.

The Alabama-based tribe purchased the underlying real estate of the pari-mutuel earlier this week. Under their corporate entity, PCI Gaming Authority, the tribe bought the 30-acre piece of land for $96 million.

As a result, the deal between PCI and West Flagler is all but finalized. According to multiple reports, the total price tag, which includes the transfer of Magic City’s gaming license, facilities and equipment, is about $600 million.

Despite the casino title, Magic City is not technically a Florida casino. Instead, it’s considered a pari-mutuel. The Seminole Tribe owns and operates all Class III gaming establishments in the Sunshine State.

Real estate swaps hands less than a month after FGCC approval

During last month’s meeting, the Florida Gaming Control Commission approved the sale between the two entities.

Previously, the FGCC delayed its approval of the sale, citing the need for more transparency. In December, West Flagler and the tribe submitted an application with more than 100 redacted pages.

Additionally, counsel for the Seminole Tribe raised concerns regarding the legality of the license transfer. At the January FGCC meeting, the tribe’s legal representation said state law prohibited slot machine licenses from being transferred from one owner to another.

Most Florida pari-mutuels are not allowed to operate slot machines. The Florida gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe prohibits it.

However, voters in Broward and Miami-Dade counties voted in 2006 and 2008 to allow its pari-mutuels to operate those machines. In Florida, ballot initiatives supersede the agreement between the tribe and the state.

Name change alleviated any legal concerns

PCI alleviated both of those concerns in February. Initially, PCI submitted the proposal under the Wind Creek Miami, LLC subsidiary company.

But once the company received pushback, it revised the paperwork and changed the licensee to Gretna Racing. PCI already owns Gretna Racing, a subsidiary that owns a pari-mutuel facility about 30 miles northwest of Tallahassee.

Consequently, the commission didn’t need to worry about the legality of transferring the licenses. The second proposal also included fewer redacted pages.

After its approval, the FGCC gave the two parties 30 days to complete the deal. The regulatory board meets again on March 10.

PCI plans to renovate the property

Since the facility sits on 30 acres, the tribe plans to redevelop the site. In addition to the casino, PCI plans to build attractions around it. Wind Creek President and CEO Jay Dorris said those attractions will feature a shopping mall and “experience-oriented attractions.”

The move is similar to what Caesars Entertainment is doing with the recently rebranded Harrah’s Pompano Beach.

In addition to slot machines, the license also will allow PCI to operate Magic City’s poker room, jai-alai facility and certain electronic casino games. This is PCI’s third Florida property. It also owns gambling resorts in Aruba and Curacao.

In 2019, it purchased Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., from Las Vegas Sands for $1.3 billion.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Steve Schult

As Managing Editor of PlayFL, Steve will stay on top of all things related to the Florida gaming industry. He is also a veteran of the gambling world. The native New Yorker started covering high-stakes tournaments in 2009 for some of poker's most prominent media outlets before adding the broader U.S. gaming market to his beat in 2018.

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