The Miami Beach City Commission unanimously voted on Wednesday to start the process for new legislation that would ban casinos throughout the city.
The proposed measure will now go before the Miami Beach Planning Board on May 11 followed by a first reading vote by the city commission.
The move was in response to the State Legislature’s proposed expansion of gambling facilities in Miami-Dade County, which stalled late Tuesday as a result of an impasse between House and Senate leaders. If the state’s update to existing gambling laws is approved, it would pave the way for more casinos in South Florida. Currently, gambling is allowed at pari mutuel facilities and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.
Malaysian company Genting has wanted to build a casino resort on the former site of the Miami Herald on Biscayne Bay since purchasing the property in 2011. Last week, the Miami Herald reported that the owners of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach are also likely to compete for the slots license.
Alex Heckler, an attorney representing the Fontainebleau, urged city commissioners to first conduct an economic impact study now that the state gambling legislation has sputtered. “We understand your concerns,” Heckler said. “We request you do this with your eyes wide open.”
Miami Beach activist Frank Del Vecchio said the Soffer family, which owns the Fontainebleau, should back the proposed zoning ordinance banning casinos. “We all know what gambling brings,” Del Vecchio said. “It is devastating. The Fontainebleau should step up to the plate as a longtime citizen of this community. Junk the gambling.”
Car dealership magnate and Art Basel Miami Beach host committee chairman Norman Braman said a casino would negatively affect the international art fair. “Gambling is not compatible with a world class art fair,” he said. “We need to be cognizant of how gambling will hurt our community.
Commissioner Ricky Arriola also suggested Miami Beach officials need to lobby their counterparts in the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County to oppose any casino expansion across the bay. “If there is a mega-casino in Miami, it will begin a cascade because every hotel is going to say, ‘I need slot machines to compete,’” Arriola said. “The legislature put us in a bad situation.”