Florida Senate President Slams Door On Soffer’s Quest For Casino

Written By JR Duren on May 18, 2021 - Last Updated on May 19, 2021
This past week, Florida Senate president Wilton Simpson shot down billionaire Jeffrey Soffer's push for a Miami casino.

There’s a nice way to say no, and then there’s the Wilton Simpson way to say no.

This past week, Simpson, the Florida Senate president, was clear on his stance regarding billionaire Jeffrey Soffer’s push to move his Hallendale Beach casino license to his iconic Fontaineblaeu Miami Beach hotel.

“We will not contemplate moving a casino license out to the Fontainebleau,” Simpson said via video chat with CBS Miami.

The stark statement ends Soffer’s campaign to open a Miami casino in his prized beachfront property.

Portability will not be discussed at May 17 special session

Simpson’s pronouncement comes during an important few weeks in Tallahassee. On May 17, the legislature will hold a special session in which they may approve a sports betting compact with the Seminole tribe.

And while the development is a groundbreaking one, the legislature’s giving spirit turned Scrooge-ish for Soffer after Simpson declared business owners are not allowed to move a casino license from one location to another, a concept known as “portability.

Not only that, but Simpson told CBS Miami that any lawmaker who brings up portability at Monday’s special session will be considered out of order.

“I do not think [portability] is being contemplated in the special session,” Simpson said. “Well, actually I know it’s not. We put out the call yesterday and it would prohibit that type of activity.”

The decision applies to the special session, but Simpson didn’t rule out future portability discussions. Rather, Simpson said he wants local communities to decide if they want a casino in their area.

“I’m not totally against portability,” Simpson said. “I’m against portability that would run over local communities to make it happen.”

Miami Beach mayor on casinos in his city: Nope

Miami Beach is one city that opposes developers endeavoring to move a casino license from other Florida locations.

City Mayor Dan Gelber was resolute in his stand against casinos in his city.

“Two things about casino gambling: Number one, it’s horrible for a community…there’s no city in America that has casinos that we want to be,” Gelber told CBS Miami recently.  “And number two, it makes an enormous amount of money for very few people who tend to green the legislature with lots of money to get lots of attention.”

But banning casinos from the fabled beach city isn’t just a matter of Gelber’s distaste for surfside gaming; it’s city law.

According to Miami Beach ordinance number 2017-4104, “gambling and casinos are prohibited in the City of Miami Beach.”

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JR Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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