MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins have hired a veteran lobbyist and appear to be pushing to make land around their football stadium eligible for casino licenses in case lawmakers vote to expand gambling.
The National Football League prohibits ties to gambling, but holding companies tied to the team and its majority owner, Stephen Ross, own large tracts of land around the stadium. Ross could sell or lease the land for a tidy profit and also benefit from spillover traffic and spending from gamblers traveling to a casino owned by someone else.
The Miami Herald reports Ross has always envisioned the area as an entertainment destination beyond sports. Last year, he announced plans for a 20-acre water park across from 24-year-old Sun Life Stadium, which is located 16 miles northwest of downtown Miami and was refurbished four years ago.
A major gaming company already has staked out a site downtown. Malaysia-based Genting Group purchased The Miami Herald building this year and announced plans for a 10-million-square-foot, mixed-use development and possible casino.
State Rep. Erik Fresen of Miami is drafting a bill that would grant South Florida licenses for three casino resorts. Last month, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said he’s pushing for a vote on legislation that would permit gambling resorts in Florida.
The Dolphins released a lengthy statement on the issue, saying the team itself would not pursue a casino, but suggested it was positioning itself to be a player in the gambling debate.
“NFL regulations prohibit any direct involvement by the team and/or its owners in the operation of a gaming facility so neither Steve Ross or the Dolphins have any plans to enter the casino business,” according to the statement.
“We have engaged our lobbyist, Ron Book, to represent our interest in Tallahassee on this matter to ensure that -- should the legislation be passed and opportunities arise -- Miami Gardens is positioned to compete for casino operators who may have an interest in a North Dade location, an area that is certainly in dire need of pursuing new economic development opportunities.”
Book said more than 100 acres around the stadium are “ready to go” for a casino resort.