What Potential Sale of Magic City Casino Means for Sports Betting in Florida

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
What Potential Sale of Magic City Casino Means for Sports Betting in Florida

As the battle for the legalization of Florida sports betting rages into 2023, experts are parsing every little detail and decision to see how it might sway the ongoing litigation. This includes the potential sale of Magic City Casino, which is located in Miami. While it doesn't seem to be significant at first glance, it turns out this transaction could have a massive impact on the future of sports betting in Florida.

Some serious dot-connecting is required to get here. And the folks over at the Miami Herald and Legal Sports Report have done. The jury is still out on whether Magic City will actually be sold, but if it is, the major stakeholders involved may point to a shift in the Florida sports betting landscape.

Let's dig into the details, together.

How Does the Sale of Magic Impact Florida Sports Betting?

According to the Miami Herald, the owners and operators of Magic City, the Havenick family, also happen to be the people behind West Flagler Associates. If that name sounds familiar, that's because it should sound familiar.

As Legal Sports Report noted: "West Flagler Associates is the Florida-based gaming entity that sued both the Governor of Florida, in a lawsuit that was dismissed, and the Department of Interior over the 2021 gaming compact that was negotiated between Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida."

Though West Flagler Associates' lawsuit against Ron DeSantis was ultimately unsuccessful, they were a driving force behind the retraction of sports betting in Florida. The state went from offering legal wagering on Seminole tribal grounds in late 2021 to offering no form of sports betting at all by the end of the year. This matter has been tied up in litigation ever since.

To that end, it is this extensive litigation that has raised eyebrows over the sale of Magic City Casino. While the Florida sports betting battle won't reach resolution this year, oral arguments are soon set to be heard in the appeal of West Flagler Associates' other lawsuit. The Department of the Interior responded to the District Court ruling in favor of West Flagler Associates by filing counterarguments of their own. The process has taken over a year to play out, but this next round of trials is expected to take place sometime in early 2023.

And that poses an interesting question: Why is the Havenick family and West Flagler Associates looking to sell their Florida casino now, ahead of any litigious conclusion?

Who is Scheduled to Buy Magic City Casino?

As the Miami Herald noted in their report on the sale, Magic City is being purchased by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, a tribe predominantly based out of the neighboring Alabama. We don't yet know how much the transaction is worth, but we do have some of the finer detail points from the deal.

For starters, Poarch Band of Creek will reportedly acquire the necessary permits to operate and own the casino. This license allows for the use of slot machines on the Magic City property, in addition to other facilities throughout Southern Florida.

The Miami Herald also reports that while the sale is agreed upon between the Alabama tribe and the Havenick family, it is first subject to the approval of the Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC). And that might be a problem. Officially, the FGCC's staff recommended ratifying the deal. But the Seminole tribe has since petitioned the Commission to block it, according to PlayFL.com.

This entire transaction is now on pause as a result, and it isn't yet clear whether it will be revived. Still, the more notable takeaway is the Havenick family trying to sell Magic City at all. Does this decision imply something about their pending sports betting litigation versus the Department of the Interior?

Bad Omen for Sports Betting in Florida?

The Havenick family—and by extension West Flagler Associates—have maintained they don't intend to leave the Florida gaming industry altogether. They apparently plan to keep their Bonita Springs Poker Room, per the Miami Herald.

At the same time, if the Havenick family had any real confidence in the upcoming appeal, would they really be looking to divest such a huge part of their business? Many experts throughout the industry don't think so. The prevailing speculation is that the Havenick family wants to drop their lawsuit versus the Department of the Interior. And if that's the case, it suggests they don't believe they can win.

Is that inherently bad for sports betting in Florida? Perhaps not. We might just see a return to the status quo in which on-site exclusivity is given to the Seminole tribe. But that would also mean online sports betting enthusiasts are getting the shaft. That form of gambling was not part of the gaming compact negotiated between the Seminoles and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

To be clear, a reinstitution of 2021 sports betting policies wouldn't be the end of the world. Floridians have alternatives. They can still sign up with one of the top reviewed online sportsbooks in the industry. But if you're hoping for domestic powerhouses like FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and others to enter the state, the prospective sale of Magic City Casino suggests you're plum out of luck.

Because as of now, it sure seems like the Seminole tribe and Department of the Interior or positioned to win their appeal.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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