Barely a month since his former casino was bulldozed to the ground in Atlantic City, Donald Trump could be eyeing a return to the industry in a rather unlikely destination.
For years, Florida has dismissed the idea of legalising gambling in any form, but the fallout from the pandemic – and the lost revenue of an absence of tourism for the best part of a year – has given decision-makers fresh impetus to reconsider their ban on casino gaming and sports betting in the state.
If they do allow gambling in some form to take place, it is believed that Trump’s Doral golf resort near Miami could be amongst the first to be granted a licence.
A landmark bill that would legalise casino gambling in Florida is currently being discussed, and while it is believed that opposition remains to the proposals it may become a necessity to answer the shortfall in funding.
The Trump Organization, in customary fashion, has not been tiptoeing around the idea from a P.R. perspective.
“Many people consider Trump Doral to be unmatched from a gaming perspective — at 700 acres, properties just don’t exist of that size and quality in South Florida, let alone in the heart of Miami,” so said Eric Trump on Thursday when questioned about the possibility of casino action at his dad’s resort.
Quite whether supporters will get their way remains to be seen. The Seminole Tribe of Florida currently operates a number of licensed casino properties in the state, while Disney World – wanting to attract parents and their children to the amusement park – have spent millions of dollars from allowing the ‘sleazy’ world of casino gaming to encroach on land near to their premises.
The trump card, if you’ll pardon the pun, up Donald’s sleeve is his close friendship to the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, but whether that will be enough to satisfy the constitutional requirement for a gambling bill to secure at least 60% support in a statewide ballot remains to be seen.
And Trump could have a surprising ally in Jeffrey Soffer, whose Fonatainebleau Hotel is able to offer slot gaming to its patrons courtesy of a special licence.
The Miami Herald revealed an exclusive story that Soffer had been entertaining Florida’s state legislators aboard his private yacht, and reports even suggest he is using his friendship with NFL star Tom Brady to sweeten the deal – inviting some to a part with Brady in the hours immediately after he won Super Bowl LV with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Friends in High Places
There’s no doubt that Trump will use all of his persuasive powers and standing to try and force through casino gaming in Florida.
His Doral resort desperately needs a shot in the arm with revenue down significantly, and despite his checkered history in the sector – many of his casinos have gone bankrupt – the former President will know the opportunities that gaming would present.
Given that the Seminole Tribe have a monopoly on casino gaming in Florida, and that the Seminole Gaming Commission has a certain amount of sway with legislators, they have hooked up with Trump in the past.
Back in the 1990s, he and the Tribe worked together to develop plans for a mega casino in the state, however the then Governor Jeb Bush refused to allow the project to get off the ground – stating that three previous referendums had all voted down gambling in Florida.
Meanwhile Dan Gelber, the mayor of Miami Beach, has claimed that legislators have a simple choice – do they hold firm to regulatory precedent or will they bow down to Trump’s wishes?