Gambling in Miami Beach? No thank you!

New York Post
Gambling in Miami Beach? No thank you!
Super Slots

Vegas by the sea? No thank you!

With Florida’s legislature back in session, a proposed bill is on the table that would extend casino gaming to Miami Beach and beyond.

The only problem? Miami Beach residents don’t want slot machines along their shores. 

The electorate — myself included — has repeatedly (and resoundingly) voted down the possibility of bringing gambling to the beach for years.

Nevertheless, Senate Bill 1054 intends to bypass local municipalities and zoning regulations by waiving the statewide and county voter referendum as required by the Florida Constitution. 

Obviously, hoteliers like Jeffrey Soffer, who owns the Fontainebleau, Miami Beach’s largest hotel property, want to rake in lucrative casino revenue, regardless of what locals have to say.

The billionaire Soffer, who was once married to supermodel Elle Macpherson, has long been enamored by the casino biz.

He’s also among the loudest champions for gaming in Miami.

In 2005, he bought the storied Fontainebleau property where Sinatra and the Rat Pack used to croon and carouse. 

Known as a crown jewel of Miami Beach, the elegant 22-acre oceanfront resort, would admittedly, make for an ideal site for a casino. 

But just because it’s built like a casino doesn’t mean it should become one. 

Despite aggressive lobbying and political donations, the property has been unable to secure a gaming license. 

That could change this year, during Florida’s legislative session, which runs from now through March. 

The bill’s premise is based on portability.

It allows for an existing casino owner to transfer its gaming license within 30 miles of its current venue.

Ding! In 2018, Soffer bought the decidedly down-market Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach. Guess what? It’s within 30 miles of the Fontainebleau. 

To make this happen, Soffer has been accused of using his influential friends like football legend Tom Brady to charm politicians (often on his yacht) into passing legislation that would make this portability possible. 

As he busily woos Florida pols, Soffer finally got his wish of owning a grand hotel and casino last year with the debut of the Fontainebleau’s sister property in Las Vegas. 

Located on the northern end of The Strip, Soffer hosted a glitzy grand opening with celebrities including Justin Timberlake, who was paid a reported $6 million to perform for the star-studded crowd, and glamorously posed playing craps with Soffer. 

Viva Las Vegas! The $3.7 billion hotel looks gorgeous. 

But please don’t bring gaming to Miami Beach, which is already overwhelmed by rampant development, climate change, ancient infrastructure, and crime.

Loose slots are the last thing we need. 

The Fontainebleau is just a chip’s throw away from 41 Street, one of the main — and often congested — arteries leading to and from Miami Beach. 

According to the Miami Herald, the Florida Department of Transportation has described our causeways as being “on the brink of failure.”  

Plus, gamblers are not lacking options in South Florida.

There are multiple casinos within Miami and neighboring Broward County, including Soffer’s Big Easy Casino, Magic City Casino, Gulfstream Park, and the Hard Rock, whose glowing guitar-shaped silhouette can be seen for miles.

And it’s not just Miami Beach that could soon embrace gambling. If passed, the “portability” bill would also mean that former President Donald Trump’s property, Trump National Doral, would be eligible for a casino.

I don’t have to remind anyone in the tri-state area how Trump’s prior casino ventures turned out in Atlantic City, where the Taj Mahal and his other properties went bankrupt. 

A potential president owns a casino.

Let’s not go there — especially considering Trump’s endless legal troubles. Still, Eric Trump has been angling for a license for years, even as the Doral contends with traffic and overdevelopment woes just as serious as those in Miami. 

Look, I’m not some pearl-clutching prude. I love a Vegas trip! I come from a long line of gamblers, and my dad taught me how to play baccarat when I was seven.

Natural nine. Bet it’s all in black. Double down. Yes, yes and yes. Just leave Miami Beach out of it. 

Miami Beach has a special allure that doesn’t require pit bosses and poker.

We have a beautiful beach, aqua waters, and magical pink sunsets.

I know that the opening of these casinos can be fabulous and fun (as well as immeasurably profitable). 

But when Timberlake and his posse decamp — and reportedly the “Cry Me a River” singer spent the night at Vegas’ Wynn Hotel, not Soffer’s Fontainebleau after his performance — the crowd coming to play the one-armed bandits degrades quickly.