“Bad bet for Florida”: Ken Griffin opposes bills that could allow for Miami Beach casino

Billionaire hedge funder Ken Griffin opposes Florida bills that could allow a casino to open at Jeff Soffer’s Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort. 

In a Miami Herald letter to the editor titled “Casinos are a bad bet for Florida,” Griffin cautioned that gambling expansion would threaten “our shared prosperity” in the state, writing that “measurable research proves” that casinos lead to gambling addiction, higher crime rates and drops in property values.  

Griffin, a major Republican party donor and South Florida real estate investor, took aim at Senate Bill 1054 and House BIll 1127. The legislation would allow gambling permit holders to transfer their licenses to a property within 30 miles. 

Soffer has been trying in recent years to get state approval to move his gambling license from the Big Easy Casino at 831 North Federal Highway in Hallandale Beach to his Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort at 4441 Collins Avenue. 

He owns both properties through his Aventura-based Fontainebleau Development. So far, Soffer has been dealt a losing hand but this year he upped the ante. In recent months, Soffer pumped $300,000 in contributions to the Republican Party of Florida and political action committees supporting state lawmakers, the Herald reported. This includes $15,000 for Principled Moral Conservatism, a PAC chaired by Alex Rizo, a state representative who is sponsoring the House bill. 

Griffin’s letter makes no mention of Soffer, Fontainebleau resort and Miami Beach but opines on the detrimental effects of gambling as a whole on the “thriving state.” He does point out that the bills are counter to a 2018 constitutional amendment approved by voters that vests them the right to approve casino expansion. 

“It’s a legislative gimmick created by lobbyists and special interest groups that blatantly disregards our voice as voters and puts Florida’s momentum at risk,” Griffin wrote in the letter.

Miami Beach city officials and residents also oppose a casino, with voters approving a measure in 2017 that banned gambling in the city. 

Griffin was part of a cohort of uber-wealthy out-of-staters who rushed to South Florida, scooping up mansions and investing in commercial properties, in the boom years that ensued after 2020. The in-migration was due to Florida’s lack of income tax and early pandemic reopening, as well as Miami’s business-friendly climate.

In 2022, Griffin moved his Citadel and Citadel Securities’ headquarters from Chicago to Miami. The companies leased temporary offices, though Griffin is expected to have a headquarters tower developed at 1201 Brickell Bay Drive site in Brickell. Griffin paid a record $363 million for the site in 2022. Also that year, he paid a record $106.7 million for Adrienne Arsht’s estate at 3031 and 3115 Brickell Avenue in Coconut Grove.

In his letter, he went on to equate allowing casinos and their potential negative impacts to “willingly dumping toxic waste into the Everglades.”

–– Lidia Dinkova

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