Eric Trump's pushing Florida Republicans to change state law so Doral resort can become a casino

Florida currently limits gambling mostly to tribal casinos

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published March 17, 2021 6:21PM (EDT)

 (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
(Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Eric Trump, the former President's son who runs the family business, is pushing to transform the Trump Organization's Miami Doral Resort into a gambling destination by actively lobbying Republicans in the state legislature to change a longstanding law.

Trump's come as part of a Republican-backed effort to legalize casinos in parts of the state that have long prohibited them. According to The Washington Post, the Florida state legislature has not yet formally submitted a bill for review, but whispers of a proposal have circulated around the state's leadership. The proposal, reportedly being led by Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Republican, is expected to allow real estate developers to dole out gambling permits without the approval of municipal governments. 

"My understanding is they are trying to take the gambling permits that are in South Florida and make them portable and preempt local governments from stopping them," said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelbe, a Democrat and an ardent opponent of new casinos in the state. Gambling in the Sunshine State has long been relegated to just a few settings, such as tribal casinos and racetracks. 

The bill would prove quite favorable for Trump's business endeavors. Eric Trump told the Post that the Doral Resort would be a "natural choice" for a casino. "Many people consider Trump Doral to be unmatched from a gaming perspective," Eric Trump told the Post, "At 700 acres, properties just don't exist of that size and quality in South Florida, let alone in the heart of Miami."

The resort has reportedly been in financial straits for years, which was recently exacerbated by the pandemic. According to the club's government disclosure form, revenue at the club plummeted by 44 percent this year. Bloomberg reported that the club either laid off or furloughed some 560 workers. Bloomberg also found that the former President's net worth has sharply declined by $700 million since the start of his presidency. 

The feud over gambling in Florida is timeworn according to sources familiar with the issue. According to Simpson's spokesperson, the senator "has been involved in these negotiations for years. She said, "if they get to a place where he believes an agreement would benefit the State of Florida and have the support of his colleagues in the Legislature as well as the Governor, he would be happy to discuss further details."

The issue is further complicated by the fact that it doesn't map clearly onto party lines. In the past, Republican leaders have thwarted attempts at legalization. Furthermore, the state mandates that legalization occur by way of a state ballot measure, putting the onus on both lawmakers and voters. 

If passed, the potential bill may help the Trump Organization rebound from its business losses. However, Florida Rep. Joseph Geller, D, expressed doubt over whether there would be wide legislative interest in aiding the Trump Organization, given Trump's past failed ventures in Atlantic City. 

"This guy has bankrupted every casino he's ever run. How do you bankrupt a casino?" he said. "I don't think we need a failed casino. We don't want to be the next Atlantic City."

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik was a former staff writer at Salon.

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Casinos Doral Resort Eric Trump Florida Gambling Indian Gaming Republicans