Three years ago, two short, 150-meter horse races began in Miami-Dade County and ended in Broward, so now Malaysian gambling conglomerate Genting should be allowed to operate a casino near downtown Miami. Or, at least, that's the oversimplified take on a lawsuit Genting has filed against Miami-Dade County and State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
It's the latest in a long line of complicated risks Genting has taken to try and bring a casino to the heart of Miami's urban core.
Five years ago, Genting plopped down $236 million to buy the Miami Herald's former bayfront headquarters and unveiled ambitious plans to build a lavish megaresort and full-service casino on the primo property. This despite the fact that such casinos aren't allowed in Florida under the law. Genting took a bet that the state government would rush through some changes to the gambling laws to accommodate them, but, so far, they've come up losers. It shouldn't be a surprise. They weren't the first company with big dreams and an even bigger fortune to try to get gambling expanded in the state.
Well, just weeks after rumors surfaced that Genting may try and sell its property and walk away from the project, the Malaysian conglomerate is back with a last-ditch lawsuit to allow them to operate a slot machine and card games at the Omni building.
Under Florida law, operators of pari-mutuel gaming facilities (i.e. horse and dog racing tracks) are also allowed to run a limited number of card games and slot machines. Back in 2014, Genting reached an agreement with Gulfstream Park to transfer their quarter-horse permit. Gulfstream mainly runs thoroughbred races under a separate license anyway.
In fact, Gulfstream has only maintained a quarter-horse permit in hopes of one day operating a casino in Miami-Dade anyway. That was their plan long before Genting was in the picture, and the permit is technically currently owned by a separate nonprofit.
Shortly after purchasing the Herald site, Genting also went on a shopping spree that included the nearby former Omni Mall building.
While occasional quarter-horse racing remained at Gulfstream, Genting wanted to operate the associated card room and slot machines out of the Omni. Though, a judge ruled that the Broward-based Gulfstream couldn't transfer their permit across county lines.
Gulfstream Park is based in Broward County, but some of its land does stretch over into Miami-Dade.
And it turns out that whenever Gulfstream does run an occasional quarter-horse race in order to maintain the permit, they make sure that it starts on the small part of its land that is in Miami-Dade.
According to the Herald, Genting and Gulfstream signed a nominal $1, one-year lease back in April and have now filed a preemptive lawsuit against the county and Rundle.
Essentially, they're asking a judge to agree that the permit is valid in Miami-Dade and to bar any police or regulators from taking action against them from running a casino in the county.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Yes, it's a complicated legal maneuver, and ultimately it will be up to the courts to decide if there's any merit to the argument.
It's not surprising that Genting operates with a gambler's mentality. They take a lot of big risks. A lot of them fail, but if they get lucky on one deal they can end up winning big time.