Settlement With Miami City Commission Sets Up Magic City Casino For Jai Alai, Card Room

Written By JR Duren on March 2, 2021 - Last Updated on March 5, 2021

Magic City Casino scored a significant victory this week.

The Miami City Commission ruled to move forward with a settlement that would allow the casino’s developer to build a summer jai alai facility and a card room.

The settlement resolution now goes to the desk of Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez. The mayor has 10 calendar days from Feb. 25 to sign the settlement. If he chooses not to sign, the resolution will automatically kick in. Even if the mayor vetoes the move, the commission can override his decision.

The settlement ends a more than two-year battle between Magic City and Miami’s city commission.

Change in city voting rules halted jai alai project

In 2018, Magic City had a permit to build a jai alai facility in Miami. That year, however, the city commission voted to adopt a new rule requiring a four-fifths commission vote for new gambling construction.

In April 2019, Magic City filed suit against the city in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The suit notes Magic City’s developer, West Flagler Associates (WFA), went through the proper channels to obtain a construction permit. The hard work paid off, WFA’s attorneys noted in the filing:

“After considerable expenditure and resources, the state’s Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering issued a permit authorizing West Flagler to conduct pari-mutuel wagering on the game of jai alai and operate a cardroom on the properties.”

Yet 23 days after WFA earned its permit in July 2018, the city commission voted to move forward with the four-fifths rule.

The suit alleged the commission may have used the new rule to target WFA. Court documents allege the city’s Planning, Zoning & Appeals Board “recognized that the [new four-fifths rule] was intended to apply retroactively to Plaintiff and voted to deny the proposed ordinance.”

To make a long story short, Magic City’s jai alai plans went belly-up on Jan. 17, 2019. That day, the city “rejected or refused to process [WFA’s] building permit for the jai alai fronton facilities.”

Settlement reveals what the Magic City facility will feature

According to the settlement, the Magic City facility has to adhere to the following requirements:

  • No slot machines in the jai alai facility
  • Can open a card room with a four-fifths vote from the city commission
  • Jai alai seating limited to 4,000 people
  • Facility will have 100,000 square feet or less of exhibition space
  • Off-street parking limited to 1,000 vehicles
  • Jai alai facility will follow planning, zoning, and design criteria
  • All future development must meet Miami 21 Code

The settlement order notes that West Flagler can proceed with obtaining construction permits.

Photo by AP / Wilfredo Lee
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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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