In September 2015, the company that owns Miami's Magic City Casino — West Flagler Associates — tried to apply for a license to open up a new poker room in downtown Miami, through an arcane licensing process involving "summer jai-alai" permits. The state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering denied the application, but in April of this year, a state appeals court ruled that the board was wrong — and that West Flagler should be able to apply for a gambling license and build downtown.
Now, according to recently published documents, West Flagler says it wants to open up a new casino at 3000 Biscayne Blvd. in Edgewater.
According to an application first published by the anonymously written development website the Next Miami, West Flagler filed a new application with the state board on April 20.
"On Behalf of West Flagler Associates, LTD ("West Flagler"), please find attached the amended location for our pari-mutuel permit application submitted in conformance with section 550.0745, Florida Statutes," the application says. "On September 3, 2015, West Flagler submitted an application for a new summer jai-alai pari-mutuel permit to operate jai alai games at a location in Miami-Dade County."
The new location for the card room, the application states, is 3000 Biscayne Blvd., which sits across the street from a Starbucks on U.S. 1. The property, which is owned by a company called Crescent Heights, formerly contained the Legal Services of Greater Miami, a pro-bono law firm that helps low-income people file fair-housing complaints, among many other services.
The application comes just as the Florida House of Representatives and the Senate are moving closer on a comprehensive gambling bill, which could pave the way for a new casino license elsewhere in Miami-Dade County. While the Florida Senate has long been receptive to the idea of building more casinos in Miami, the House has been reluctant to agree — until this week, when House lawmakers surprisingly proposed letting a developer build a new, 1,500-slot-machine casino somewhere across Dade, as long as the property is more than five miles from any other casino, and is chosen via a competitive bidding process.
The Miami Herald reports that the two prime movers for the new casino are Genting, the Malaysian giant that bought the newspaper's former headquarters, and the owners of the Fontainebleau Hotel. The Herald's editorial board called that proposal "a reckless gamble" on Wednesday, pun presumably intended.
Likewise, neighborhood associations across midtown Miami are likely to strongly oppose West Flagler's separate plan in Edgewater, provided it moves forward. Edgewater and the Design District have gentrified to the point that most of the new residents moving in are high-income condo owners looking to live near the Design District's luxury fashion shops and Wynwood's nightlife scene.
Shrinking low- and middle-class neighborhoods border West Flagler's proposed site to the west and north. Both the Buena Vista and Little Haiti neighborhoods are already battling extremely one-sided gentrification fights — neighborhood associations like Faynm Aysisen na Miyami, a Haitian-American group, are likely to strongly oppose any plans for a casino in that stretch of town.
There are also questions as to whether a new casino could destroy the Design District's reputation as an upscale shopping mecca for the wealthy. Multiple studies show that casinos aren't actually good for their nearby economies: The National Association of Realtors warned in a study that casinos have an "unambiguously negative" impact on their surrounding communities, and don't encourage new businesses to build nearby.
Casino patrons, the study noted, typically stay inside the building for hours and don't get out to wander and frequent shops nearby. Casino patrons also tend to be 50 and over, a demographic currently at odds with downtown Miami's new image as the capital of millennial South Florida.
Correction: This article previously misidentified the location of the Legal Services of Greater Miami. The firm moved from 3000 Biscayne last year.
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