Miami's Move to Regulate Gambling Threatens Edgewater Poker Room

The plan for a new poker room in Miami may never come to fruition. The city commission is attempting to add new gambling restrictions before the poker room has a chance to open. The move threatens business plans already set in motion by the owner of Florida's Magic City Casino.

Businesses in Miami's Edgewater district were less than welcoming when Magic City Casino's owner was granted permission from the state to open a poker room and jai alai fronton in their neighborhood. When the permit was granted in July, area business leaders spoke out vehemently against allowing a gambling business in the area.

In response, Magic City's lobbyist, Ron Book, promised Maimi commissioners that the Edgewater cardroom would never include casino-style games aside from poker, and the owners would never pursue a license for slot machines. Book says it is not the community but a few wealthy business owners that oppose the poker room.

During a meeting on Thursday, the commission voted 4-1 in favor of a change to the Miami zoning code that would block any new gambling-related businesses from opening. According to Chairman Keon Hardemon, the one member of the commission opposed to the change, the code is written specifically to block the poker room from opening.

West Flagler Associates, the owner of Magic City and the proposed poker room, say they will sue if the commissioners proceed to finalize the zoning change. Victoria Mendez, an attorney for the city who was present at the meeting, welcomed the challenge claiming West Flagler could not prove the zoning change would block its project.

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