Caesars Entertainment will pay a small fine to continue developing its new South Florida casino and entertainment complex.
The company hit a small roadblock in its plans when tiny burrowing owls were found on the decommissioned horse track at Isle Casino Pompano Park.
These owls are less than 10 inches tall and are a state-designated threatened species. At the federal level, the species is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Both require developers to follow a series of protocols when building on land occupied by owls.
In this case, the gaming giant paid $9,500 to move forward with its plans.
Burrowing owls are the only major hurdle for Caesars
Isle Casino Pompano Park was a fixture in the South Florida gaming industry. It was one of the most popular racetracks and poker rooms in the area.
For most of its history, Eldorado Resorts owned the facility. However, in July 2020, the company finalized its merger with Caesars Entertainment. Therefore, Isle Casino became Caesars’ only Florida entity.
Last February, executives announced they would shutter the horse track, redevelopment the casino area and rebrand the property to Harrah’s Pompano Beach. Additionally, Caesars partnered with Baltimore-based Cordish Co to add an entertainment complex.
The overall complex will be called LIVE! Resorts Pompano. It will feature a Topgolf driving range, a 176-room hotel, new event space, retail stores and a movie theatre.
Caesars ran the Isle’s final races on April 17 before it began renovations. The company submitted plans to the city, but the Owls were the company’s biggest problem in continuing the project.
Fee is very small for a billion-dollar company
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has specific guidelines for dealing with these birds.
First, the developers need to obtain a permit even to touch the nests. Then, they chose one of two payment options.
- Pay a lower fee to help mitigate the owls’ habitat
- Pay a higher fee for “eradicating their natural environment.”
Caesars chose the latter. The $9,500 fee absolves Caesars of any other responsibilities regarding the birds.
In 2020, a down year for gaming companies because of the pandemic, Caesars generated about $3.5 billion in revenue. So, a $9,500 fine seems meager at best.
Some have scoffed at the amount. Others said that the owls have been there for many years, well before Caesars took over the property.
State regulations don’t allow developers to touch the owls’ habitat during their nesting season or when there are flightless young. Nesting season typically runs from February to mid-July. It takes about six weeks for newborn owls to learn to fly.
Therefore, Caesars will move the nests, but won’t directly harm any of the owls.
Caesars will officially rename the property to Harrah’s Pompano Beach next month. But the company won’t complete renovations until at least late 2023.