Eric Trump Pushes for Casino at Doral Golf Resort as Florida Lawmakers Back Gambling Expansion

  • In a Washington Post statement, Eric Trump described the Doral as “a natural choice” for a casino
  • A new Florida gambling bill could enable property developers to transfer casino permits 
  • Donald Trump has support in Florida through his close relationship with Gov. Ron DeSantis 
  • Gambling bills have failed in the past due to opposition from the Seminole Tribe and both parties
  • The Doral golf resort's revenue fell 44% last year due to pandemic restrictions, resulting in layoffs
The Doral golf resort in Miami, Florida
Eric Trump has touted Miami’s Doral golf resort (pictured above) as a potential casino location, as a group of Florida Republicans prepare a bill to expand the state’s gambling market. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Saving the Miami property

Former US President Donald Trump’s business empire has suffered in recent years. According to Bloomberg, his net worth has fallen 23% since he became president, to $2.3bn. Now, in a bid to turn the tide for the family’s private company, his son Eric Trump is calling for a new casino at the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort in Florida.

As reported by the Washington Post on Wednesday, Florida’s legislature is currently considering gambling expansion in the state. Through a new bill, developers could transfer gambling permits over to properties themselves, without the need for intervention from municipal governments.

Doral resort as “a natural choice” for a gambling license

In a statement on Tuesday, Eric Trump, now an executive of the Trump Organization, described the South Florida Doral resort as “a natural choice” for a gambling license. The property has struggled as a result of Donald Trump’s divisive presidency and recent pandemic restrictions.

Friends in high places

Current Florida law only permits casino gambling in the state’s tribal casinos and racetracks. This new bill could pave the way for Eric Trump’s ambitions by putting the power of licensing in the hands of developers, bypassing local governments.

Florida’s gambling opponents are preparing for a difficult battle over the rumored casino expansion, according to the Washington Post. Donald Trump boasts a close personal relationship with Governor Ron DeSantis. The governor worked with Trump in the build-up to his own election in 2018, and strongly supported his presidential re-election efforts last year.

Eric Trump’s Florida casino hopes are not something new to the family. In a series of meetings with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in the 1990s, Donald Trump reportedly pushed for the governor to expand the state’s gambling market so he could open a casino. During a 2015 presidential debate, Bush even accused Trump of attempting to buy his support.

According to people familiar with the matter, a group of Republican legislative leaders are preparing the new casino bill. Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson is spearheading those efforts. The bill’s proponents could introduce the legislation this week, or early next.

Florida Republicans control the House, Senate, and executive branch, meaning the Trumps boast a large number of political allies.

Opposition to gambling expansion

Political loyalties aside, gambling expansion may still prove difficult in Florida. State lawmakers debate the issue most years, and so far all expansion proposals have suffered defeat.

Partly, this is because the issue does not always fall along partisan lines. In the past, leaders of both parties in the Miami area have partnered with Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida to overturn such proposals. Additionally, any gambling expansion would require voter approval as per the state constitution.

it would be terrible for Miami-Dade County”

Speaking with the Washington Post, Armando Codina, a Republican real estate developer, made clear his opposition to the rumored proposal. “I think this would be bad for Florida, and I think it would be terrible for Miami-Dade County,” he said. Codina argued that the addition of a casino would taint the area’s family-oriented image.

Similarly, Norman Braman, a South Florida billionaire and former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, expressed his belief that Miami does not need a new casino, with the recent emergence of art galleries and tech startups. “It’s nonsense that tourists will come here to gamble,” he commented. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

The perfect casino location?

In a statement to the Washington Post, Eric Trump said many people describe the Doral resort as “unmatched from a gaming perspective.” He pointed to the property’s 700 acres and its position in “the heart of Miami.” Currently, the Doral boasts 643 guest rooms and four golf courses.

It’s also no secret that the property has been struggling financially. According to Bloomberg, it saw revenue fall 44% as a result of the pandemic last year, as income dropped $57m from 2015 levels. Ultimately, this led to temporary layoffs and furloughs for 560 workers.

So far, Eric Trump has declined to comment on whether the family company is pushing for the new bill.