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Plans for Fontainebleau Casino in Florida Falter as State Cracks Down on Gambling

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Efforts to bring a casino to the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach faced a major setback on Wednesday. A formidable coalition of business leaders in the area voiced its opposition, prompting a swift withdrawal of the proposal from the Senate Regulated Industries committee's agenda.

Miami's Fontainebleau Gambles on Casino and Loses

The committee was slated to discuss the measure on Monday, but the abrupt change occurred within three hours of the bill being posted. However, in a proactive move, Miami Beach leaders stepped in and helped change the course of discussion.

The officials made a deal with billionaire Norman Braman and financial contributions from Braman and real estate developer Armando Codina. They would use his personal plane to transport over 100 local representatives and Miami-Dade County residents to appear in front of state lawmakers in Tallahassee for the hearing. The plans were promptly abandoned following the announcement that the bill would not be considered.

That subsequent reversal was the direct result of the intense lobbying effort. Notably, Ken Griffin, a hedge fund billionaire and recent Miami resident who has donated substantially to the GOP, openly opposed the measure. Griffin expressed concern that the legislation would allow the Legislature to bypass the explicit will of the people, reinforcing his stance with an op-ed piece in the Miami Herald and a subsequent statement on Wednesday.

The intrigue surrounding the casino proposal deepened with the involvement of Jeffrey Soffer, the billionaire owner of the Fontainebleau hotel. Entities associated with Soffer contributed over $300,000 to political action committees (PACs) supporting state legislators, among whom are nine Republicans representing South Florida. Soffer's ties to Governor Ron DeSantis added another layer to the complex dynamics at play.

Florida Cracks Down on Gambling

A legislative effort aimed at combating illegal gambling within the state has successfully passed its second committee hurdle in the House, but concerns linger regarding unintended consequences and potential ambiguity in the proposed measures. The bill, HB 189, secured approval from the House Appropriations Committee, but discussions during the debate highlighted potential drawbacks, particularly the risk of implicating unwitting employees in legal troubles.

The overarching objectives of the bill involve heightening penalties for the operation of illicit gambling establishments, including those housing illegal slot machines. Additionally, the legislation outlines fines for violations and introduces restrictions on advertising unauthorized betting establishments.

Representative Michelle Salzman, the bill's sponsor, emphasized its necessity in addressing the reported presence of adult arcades and internet cafes that have surreptitiously infiltrated communities. Salzman underscored the bill's broader goal of severing the "financial lifelines for drug trades and human trafficking."

While the bill has advanced, concerns have been raised about the potential unintended consequences, such as the inadvertent entanglement of individuals unaware of the illegal activities. Critics stress the importance of ensuring the legislation is clear and precise to prevent any unintended fallout.

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