Magic City Casino Sale Put on Hold by Florida Regulators

Inside of Magic City Casino in Miami Florida

  • The Florida Gaming Control Commission has delayed the sale of the Magic City Casino in Miami to WindCreek Gaming LLC.
  • The Commission’s refusal to greenlight the deal was based on a heavily-redacted application filed by the casino owner.
  • Even if the sale does push through, the Havenick Family will still have other gambling interests in Miami.

The Florida Gaming Control Commission delayed a ruling on the pending sale of the Magic City Casino in Miami to a Native American Tribe based in Alabama.

The Commission’s decision to hold the sale had to do with the redaction of the 103-page application to transfer Magic City’s pari-mutuel permit from the Havenick family’s West Flagler Associates to WindCreek Gaming LLC, which is owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Commission chairman John MacIver said that it would be “inappropriate” for the commission to take action if there is indeed an over-redaction of documents that the public has not had an opportunity to consider. MacIver then went on to tell representatives from West Flagler that the Commission could set another meeting later this month to discuss the application.

Heavily Redacted Application

Critics led by No Casinos Inc. argue that the Commission was established “ to elevate the public discussion and bring out in the forefront these types of decisions that are made about the gambling industry in the state.”

It further claimed that the public should have the “ability to see and kick the tires of everything that is not truly a trade secret”. They noted that 94% of the document was “shielded from public view, referring to the application which redacted all but two of its 103 pages.

Magic City lawyer John Lockwood countered that the redactions were intended to ensure that there is no “inadvertent dissemination of documents that are off-limits to the public”. Per Lockwood, these include trade secrets that are exempt from the state’s open-record laws. He however pledged to work with the Commission to come up with a less redacted application.

Magic City Casino a Former Dog Track

The casino opened in 1931 as the Flagler Dog Track and received its gambling permit in 1935. The Havenicks bought the gaming facility in 1951 and although Greyhound racing was banned in the state in 2018, its license remains in force and is the reason why the track became a casino.

In 2004, the state of Florida granted Flagler Dog Track and other parimutuel sites the approval to use their gambling permits to operate slots and card moors betting online. The property was then renamed Magic City Casino and it now has 800 slot machines and jai alai matches.

Meanwhile, WindCreek Miami LLC owns two gambling permits in North Florida, a greyhound permit, a cardroom in Pensacola, plus a barrel racing track and poker room in Gretna. For over a decade, the Poarch Creek Indian Tribe has expanded its presence in the United States. To date, they have a total of 10 gaming operations, including Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem which they acquired from Sands for $1.3 billion in 2019.

Havenicks Not Out of Gambling Industry

While the transaction will transfer the ownership of Magic City Casino, the Havenicks will not be completely out of the gambling industry as the family. The Poarch Creek deal does not include the family’s Casino Miami, a gambling facility that also operates jai alai, slot machines, and card moors betting online.

The Havenicks will also keep a gambling permit to operate a summer jai alai fronton and poker room at 3030 Biscayne Boulevard in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood. That property is owned by Crescent Heights, the development firm led by Russell Galbut.

Last year, the Havenicks entered into a settlement with the city of Miami on a federal lawsuit against the city for passing a resolution that banned gambling in Edgewater. As part of the settlement, the family agreed that its proposed jai alai fronton would not have slot machines.

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