Ken Griffin Takes a Stand Against Bills Allowing a Casino in Miami Beach: A Risky Proposition for FloridaFebruary 2, 2024
Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin has opposed proposed Florida bills that could pave the way for a casino at Jeff Soffer’s Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort. In a letter to the editor published in the Miami Herald titled “Casinos are a bad bet for Florida,” Griffin, a prominent Republican donor and South Florida real estate investor, expressed concerns about the potential consequences of expanding gambling in the state.
Griffin argued that gambling expansion poses a threat to “our shared prosperity” in Florida, citing “measurable research” that supposedly proves the correlation between casinos and issues such as gambling addiction, increased crime rates, and a decline in property values. Specifically, he criticized Senate Bill 1054 and House Bill 1127, which propose allowing gambling permit holders to transfer their licenses to a property within a 30-mile radius.
Soffer, the owner of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort and the Big Easy Casino, has been seeking state approval to relocate his gambling license from Hallandale Beach to the Fontainebleau property. Despite previous setbacks, Soffer intensified his efforts, contributing $300,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and various political action committees supporting state lawmakers, including $15,000 to Principled Moral Conservatism, a PAC chaired by Representative Alex Rizo, the sponsor of the House bill.
Griffin’s letter did not explicitly reference Soffer, Fontainebleau resort, or Miami Beach but focused on the state’s broader detrimental effects of gambling expansion. He highlighted that the proposed bills contradict a 2018 constitutional amendment approved by voters that grants them the right to support casino expansion.
Describing the legislation as a “legislative gimmick” created by lobbyists and special interest groups, Griffin emphasized that it undermines voters’ voices and jeopardizes Florida’s momentum. He likened allowing casinos and potential adverse impacts to “willingly dumping toxic waste into the Everglades.”
Miami Beach city officials and residents share Griffin’s opposition to the casino, having previously approved a measure in 2017 that banned gambling within the city limits. Among a group of wealthy individuals who relocated to South Florida after 2020, Griffin moved his Citadel and Citadel Securities’ headquarters from Chicago to Miami in 2022. Florida’s lack of income tax drove the relocation, its early pandemic reopening, and Miami’s business-friendly environment. Griffin’s letter reflects his commitment to influencing the ongoing debate surrounding the expansion of gambling in the state.