A Case of Doral vs Trump? City Bans Casinos, Gambling

  • The Doral city council voted 4-0 to ban gambling and casinos in the Florida city on Wednesday 
  • In March, Eric Trump expressed interest in opening a casino at his father’s Doral golf resort
  • Critics believe a new Seminole tribal compact has opened the door to more casinos in the state
  • Miami Beach is also making legal preparations to protect against Jeffrey Soffer’s casino plans
Map of Doral, Florida
A new tribal gaming compact has caused concern among gambling opponents in Florida, leading the city of Doral to introduce legislation which could block any plans for a new casino at Donald Trump’s golf resort in the city. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Doral lawmakers take action

The city of Doral in Miami-Dade County, Florida has taken it upon itself to prevent any casinos from opening up in town. On Wednesday, the Doral city council voted 4-0 to ban gambling and casinos unless approved by residents in a referendum.

protects the city against any efforts to introduce a casino in the future

As reported by the Miami Herald, the city council vote made permanent an emergency ordinance passed on May 12. As it stands, it protects the city against any efforts to introduce a casino in the future.

The move comes just months after Eric Trump, son of former US President Donald Trump, described the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort in Florida as “a natural choice” for a gambling license. The comments sparked concern among Doral’s gambling opponents, worsened by the close personal relationship shared between Donald Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis.

Critics claimed that DeSantis opened the door to new commercial casinos in Florida through a new tribal gaming compact signed in April. The governor has since rejected the claims.

The divisive tribal compact

In Florida, the only legal forms of gambling currently include slot machines at certain pari-mutuel facilities and traditional casino gaming at the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s casinos. In April, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis reached an agreement over a new Class III gaming compact with the tribe.

The agreement introduced legal sports wagering and other previously prohibited casino games, but some other parts raised concerns. DeSantis included a provision that would prevent the Seminole from interfering if the state decides to issue a gambling license to a venue more than 15 miles away from the tribe’s Hard Rock Casino.

Donald Trump’s Doral resort is slightly more than 15 miles away from the Seminole casino. Speaking with the Washington Post in March, Eric Trump said the property’s 700 acres in the “heart of Miami” made it “unmatched from a gaming perspective.”

In response to those raising concerns over the compact, DeSantis noted that the legislature’s special session passed last month without any discussion over new casinos. The governor described the claims as “idiotic politics”, but casino opponents remain concerned that there may be efforts to introduce casinos in the future.

Miami-Dade cities prepare for a fight

In light of this new compact and the Trump Organization’s casino ambitions, legislators in the city of Doral have been preparing for a fight against casino backers for weeks. At the end of the initial session last month, lawmakers began drafting gambling legislation to protect Doral’s legal position. This ultimately led to the ordinance passed on Wednesday.

We’re not waiting for it to happen before we hire someone.”

Similarly, speaking to the Miami Herald on Tuesday, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said he intends to fight any casino licensing plans. The city banned casinos in 2017 and has hired law firm Shubin and Bass to prevent that from changing. “We’re not waiting for it to happen before we hire someone,” Gelber explained.

The mayor’s concerns relate mainly to the plans of Jeffrey Soffer. The owner of Fontainebleau Resort in Miami Beach has spent months lobbying state lawmakers in an attempt to attain a casino license for his property. He donated more than $1m in campaign contributions last year, including nearly $400,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.

To further his aim, Mayor Gelber has written to the Department of the Interior asking them to reject DeSantis’s deal with the Seminole. He wrote: “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.”

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