he Doral city council on Wednesday voted 4-0 to ban gambling and casinos from the city unless approved by residents in a referendum, weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis negotiated a $500 million gaming deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, reports the Miami Herald.
Critics believe the compact was tailored to allow casinos at properties such as the Trump National Doral Miami resort or the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel, which local officials fear will bring negative impacts to their communities. The gaming deal stops the Tribe from objecting to the transfer of existing slot machine licenses to anywhere 15 miles from its casino on Seminole land near Hollywood, language that opens the door to former President Donald Trump purchasing a license and transferring it to his Doral golf resort.
The Trump Doral resort is about 18 miles from the flagship casino and is run by Eric Trump.
“We wanted to make sure we weighed in,” Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez said before Wednesday’s vote. “We will take whatever steps necessary.”
The Doral council approved an emergency ordinance on May 12 banning casinos in city limits. Wednesday’s vote to pass the same legislation on a non-emergency basis as part of an effort by city officials to further fortify Doral’s legal position against efforts down the road to licensing a casino in the city.
Officials in Doral and Miami Beach have been bracing their cities for weeks against the prospect of casinos in their jurisdictions. In April, as the 60-day legislative session in Tallahassee started to wind down, Doral’s lobbyists were watching closely to see if there would be any movement on gambling. Once it was clear lawmakers would head into a special session to pass gaming legislation, the city started drafting language leaders said would protect Doral’s “family-friendly” aesthetic.
Mayor Dan Gelber said the city is wary that state lawmakers may try to pass a bill that preempts a local governments’ ability to ban gambling.
Last Tuesday, Gelber speaking about the decision to hire law firm Shubin & Bass said: “We’re not waiting for it to happen before we hire someone.”
He said the state’s recently approved sports gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe clears a path for Jeffrey Soffer, the owner of the Fontainebleau, to transfer his casino license from The Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach.
“Obviously the fact that the 15-mile barrier was included in the compact is a pretty good expression of the intent of the governor and Legislature to give him what he wants,” said Gelber, who wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior asking that the government reject the gambling deal.
At a bill signing in Key Biscayne last week, DeSantis refuted allegations that the law was written to benefit Trump or Soffer.
In April, Miami commissioners also voted to draft legislation that would ban gambling inside city limits following a legal settlement that cleared a path for the owners of the Magic City Casino to open a poker room and jai-alai fronton in Edgewater. The gambling ban has not yet been scheduled for a commission vote.
Bermudez said all mayors should be concerned over the new gambling law, adding that local communities should have a say in what opens there, “not the state or other interests.” “We are making it clear that the home rule aspect of it is something we will fiercely protect,” he said.
Armando Codina, whose firm is responsible for developing downtown Doral and other major structures like the Doral Charter Elementary School and Doral Government Center, has been vocal in his concern about a potential casino and supported the ordinance.
“The most important thing is the ordinance is saying it should be up to the city of Doral voters, that’s who should decide. Tallahassee should not decide. We know what’s better for our community than Tallahassee,” he said. “The communities have expressed clearly that they should not have gaming. If that went to an election, I will be the face of the opposition.”