Miami Beach board moves forward with citywide casino ban

Issue now goes before Miami Beach City Commission on Friday
By Francisco Alvarado | May 11, 2017 11:30AM

The Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Ignoring warnings from a Fontainebleau Miami Beach lobbyist that a casino ban could ultimately hurt the city’s tourism business, the Miami Beach Planning Board signed off on proposed legislation that would prohibit gambling establishments.

The two proposed ordinances amending the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning code will now go before the Miami Beach City Commission on Friday.  

Alex Heckler, an attorney representing the Fontainebleau, argued the city had not conducted an economic impact study as required by the city charter, and that a casino ban could hurt the city should Malaysian company Genting Group ever be allowed to move forward with its long-stalled plans for mega-casino resort on the site of the former Miami Herald headquarters in Miami.

“We urge you to consider the bigger picture,” Heckler said. “Consider the impact of a super-sized casino on the other side of I-395 causeway and what it would do if there was gaming on one side of the causeway and not the other side. Consider the impacts to our city’s resort tax collections.”

Fontainebleau owners, led by developer Jeffrey Soffer, are interested in competing for a gaming slots license should the State Legislature authorize a gambling expansion in Miami-Dade County. Currently, gambling is only allowed at pari mutuel facilities and Indian reservations. During the recently concluded legislative session, an update to existing gambling laws that would have allowed more casinos in South Florida did not pass, but Miami Beach leaders still want to move forward with a preemptive strike.

Planning Board member Jeffrey Feldman chastised the Fontainebleau for not joining the fight against more casinos in all of Miami-Dade. “I ask Fontainebleau and their lobbyist to take that message back to the state and fight the expansion of gaming in our county,” Feldman said. “You guys are owned by billionaires who can fight this. Stop it from coming to the Genting site. And then we can rest a little bit easier.”