On Tuesday Miami-Dade commissioners endorsed a project that would allow Genting to build a hotel over a Miami bus stop. It’s no secret that the Malaysian gambling company Genting Resorts World Miami has been pushing a massive casino resort in the Omni district for years, and the commissioners hinted they might let them do just that.
“I am willing to live with a casino there,” said Commissioner Joe Martinez. “Because it is coming.” A statement such as this comes at a surprise given the recent state of gambling in the state of Florida. the House and Senate have been debating over the future of gambling in the state for quite some time, but it appears that lawmakers are primed and ready to make a decision.
In 2011 Genting paid $236 million for the land formerly occupied by the Miami Herald in 2011 and $185 million for the adjoining Omni retail and hotel complex. It was at this time that Genting announced it had plans to bring a 5,000-room casino resort to the area. Under current law, however, such a project would be impossible. Other efforts have been made to establish a casino under current state laws, but these plans also fell through.
Genting was able to gain significant leverage with their position by offering to spend $16 million in upgrading the bust stop. As part of the deal Genting would add air-conditioned shelter while also paying Miami-Dade $10 million in cash before construction on their bus stop hotel even begins. Miami-Dade commissioners were more than happy with the deal, since Genting would singlehandedly be taking on the maintenance expenses for their facility as well as the Omni Metromover station. Genting’s lawyer said Miami-Dad must sign off any and future plans to bring gambling to the hotel.
One commissioner tried fruitlessly to gain a hold over Genting, who had clearly taken control of the deal. Commissioner Daniella Levine-Cava proposed that Genting must seek county permission to pursue a zoning change from Miami in order to move forward with future casino plans. It was clear that although current law does not allow for a casino at this venue, that the odds had severely turned in Genting’s favor.
Genting assembled an impressive team of local lobbyists lawyers and consultants. Amongst them was Al Dotson Jr., a top contract lawyer and lobbyist. In Dotson’s presentation on Tuesday he detailed the steps through which Genting could begin building a casino above the bus terminal. First, Florida law must change and as we know legislation is working diligently to achieve this. Following a change in law, Genting must receive local approval of gambling expansion and then finally they must ask Miami for a change in zoning. There are a lot of ifs but the future looks optimistic for the future of gambling at Genting’s new facility.