Major Hedge Fund Manager Argues Against Casino Expansion In Florida

Written By Dan Holmes on February 2, 2024 - Last Updated on February 5, 2024
A picture of hedge fund manager Ken Griffin from a congressional hearing about his involvement in the manipulation of Game Stop stock in 2021.

Florida doesn’t need more legalized gambling.

So says Ken Griffin, founder, CEO and co-chief investment officer of Citadel, a hedge fund headquartered in Miami. In a Jan. 31 op-ed in the Miami Herald, he says the state has enough casinos.

“Allowing casinos to harm thriving communities and undermine Florida families is like willingly dumping toxic waste into the Everglades.”

Griffin also called casinos a “bad bet for South Florida.”

Those sentiments are at odds with Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Republican has been a lynchpin in the expansion of Florida gaming.

DeSantis, lawmakers seem onboard with further expansion

DeSantis negotiated the 2021 Florida gaming compact, which legalized Florida sports betting, and brought craps and roulette at the six casinos owned by the Seminole Tribe. The deal gave the tribe a monopoly over online sportsbooks and allowed in-person betting at Seminole-owned casinos and at pari-mutuels that partnered with the tribe.

Additionally, DeSantis originally agreed to legalize some Florida online casino games. However, state lawmakers removed the language so it could easily pass the legislature.

State lawmakers are currently debating legislation that could bring brick-and-mortar gambling facilities into areas they aren’t currently.

In December, Sen. Blaise Incoglia pre-filed SB 1054 for the 2024 legislative session. The bill would allow licensed pari-mutuel facilities, some of which call themselves casinos, to move to a new location as long as it isn’t 30 miles from a Seminole-owned property.

While it’s technically not expansion, the legislation could bring gaming to new locations.

Legislation makes one of Griffin’s homes a target for gambling

The 30-mile number likely wasn’t pulled out of thin air. Just outside of that radius sits Downtown Miami and Miami Beach, where there aren’t any major gambling options.

Furthermore, Jeffrey Soffer, owner of the famous Miami Beach resort Fontainebleau, wants to bring a casino to Miami Beach. Soffer recently opened the Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a resort casino on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip.

Griffin spent $106.9 million on a waterfront home in Miami in 2022. A few years earlier, he purchased a $75 million home on Star Island, a man-made island in Biscayne Bay.

If Soffer gets his wish, gambling would be much closer to Griffin’s backyard than it currently is on Seminole land.

Griffin contends state disregarding citizens’ desires

Citadel LLC is a financial services conglomerate that reportedly manages more than $60 billion in funds for its clients. Griffin doesn’t see an upside to an expansion of casino gaming in Florida. In his op-ed, he says the state is trying to take a shortcut by passing laws or making deals between the governor and the Seminole tribe.

“In 2018, over 70% of Florida voters gave citizens, rather than politicians, the exclusive power to authorize casino expansion. Floridians had the good sense to hold casino expansion to the highest of standards. But new legislation, Senate Bill 1054 and House Bill 1127, would allow ‘permit relocation’ – casino expansion side-stepping our required citizen approval.”

He adds that proposed legislation is a “gimmick created by lobbyists and special interest groups that blatantly disregards our voice as voters and puts Florida’s momentum at risk.”

Further, Griffin sees legal gambling as exploitative and dangerous.

“Too often, local casinos earn a majority of their profits from residents with gambling problems, This leads to broken lives, shattered families and higher crime rates in the community.”

According to public campaign finance records, Griffin has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and elected officials in Florida. Yet, he finds himself at odds with DeSantis and a few other Republicans in the state who support legislation that would allow more casino licenses.

Photo by AP Photo / House Judiciary Committee
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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a contributor for PlayFL with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He also has extensive experience covering the launch of sports betting in other states, including Ohio, Massachusetts and Maryland. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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