Jeffrey Soffer renews push for gambling at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach

He donated more than $300K to the Republican Party of Florida and political action committees supporting Florida legislators

Jeffrey Soffer Renews Push For Miami Beach Casino
A photo illustration of Jeffrey Soffer and the Fontainebleau Miami Beach (Getty, The Real Deal)

Jeffrey Soffer is placing more political bets on scoring a casino for his oceanfront resort in Miami Beach. 

The Aventura-based billionaire developer, whose Fontainebleau Development owns the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, spread more than $300,000 in contributions to the Republican Party of Florida and political action committees supporting Florida legislators in recent months, according to the Miami Herald

When the two-month legislative session began last week, lawmakers filed identical bills in the Florida House and Senate that would allow gambling permit holders to transfer their licenses to a new location within 30 miles. The proposed bills would also override any local government restrictions on gambling. 

Since purchasing Hallandale Beach’s Big Easy Casino — formerly Mardi Gras Casino and Race Track — in 2018, Soffer has sought approval in Tallahassee to shift the gambling permit to his Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel. But he’s been dealt a losing hand every time. 

In December, Soffer opened his long-delayed Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a $2.8 billion, 67-story hotel-casino. 

The two state bills appear to violate a 2018 constitutional amendment that gives voters the exclusive right to authorize casino gambling expansions, according to gambling opponents interviewed by the Miami Herald. 

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City officials and a majority of residents in Miami Beach oppose gambling. In 2017, city voters passed a measure banning gambling facilities throughout Miami Beach.

Soffer appears undeterred by the state and city referendums controlling where casinos are allowed. In September, entities tied to Fontainebleau Miami Beach and Big Easy Casino gave $50,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and $15,000 to Principled Moral Conservatism, a PAC chaired by Alex Rizo, a state representative from Hialeah who is sponsoring the House gambling bill, the Miami Herald reported. 

In June, the Soffer entities donated $25,000 to the Florida Senatorial Republican Campaign Committee, plus $10,000 apiece to PACs chaired by, or affiliated with, eight Miami-Dade Republican lawmakers. They include state representatives Bryan Avila, David Borrero, Demi Busatta Cabrera, Tom Fabricio, Alina Garcia and Juan Porras. Alexis Calatayud and Ana Maria Rodriguez, two Republican state senators, also received donations.

Soffer is also likely to face no opposition from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. In 2021 the Seminole Tribe of Florida negotiated a new compact with the state allowing the tribe to exclusively offer online sports betting across the state, while agreeing not to oppose any new casinos more than 15 miles from its gambling facilities in Hollywood. Fontainebleau Miami Beach is roughly 17 miles from the tribe’s Hollywood resort. 

— Francisco Alvarado