Florida City officials were told that the project would create between 150 and 200 jobs during construction. The card room and jai-alai fronton would yield between 75 and 100 jobs, with another 30 jobs in a video game arcade, Wallace said. Romanik’s group told city officials the facility would be assessed at about $15 million after the initial construction.
Wallace is waiting for Romanik’s group to request site plan approval after it secures the appropriate permit.
“The ball is in their court to come back to us with a plan of what they want to do,” Wallace said. “We’re expecting to see a site plan in the next month or two.”
Romanik last week declined to discuss details of his Florida City plan but said he remains confident of the region’s potential to support gambling.
“I think it’s a great location,” he said. “There are two million people driving by there every year on their way to the Keys. It’s an activity that people in that area have shown they would enjoy.”
One relatively swift path to a parimutuel license would be a partnership with an operator holding an unused permit. At least a half dozen have been issued but are not yet active, according to state records and industry sources.
Among those are recently issued “summer’’ jai-alai permits that Magic City Casino lawyers and others have obtained based on a loophole in a 1980 state gambling law. The provision allowed the facility with the lowest annual volume of bets to seek an additional jai-alai permit for use during summer months. Such permits can be used to construct a jai-alai fronton and poker room anywhere in the county in which it is issued.
“Dave Romanik has spoken to anybody and everybody with a permit,” said Isadore Havenick, vice president of government affairs for Magic City Casino in Miami, which has two unused jai-alai permits. “There are a lot more permits in Miami-Dade and Broward than there are facilities.”
Havenick says while his family has considered partnering with Romanik in Florida City, they don’t expect to make any commitments in the near future.
“He’s not the only person we’re talking to,” Havenick said. “But we’re really waiting to see what’s going to happen in the Legislature.”
If Romanik continues his efforts to secure a quarter horse permit for Florida City, he will face opposition from leading horse industry groups.
The Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and others are fighting the state’s decision to issue a permit for barrel racing to Gretna Racing, a company in which Romanik is a partner. The horse-racing industry argues that barrel racing is not a parimutuel sport.
Horse-racing leaders fear that Romanik is trying to bring the Gretna model to Florida City, which dramatically cuts both the costs and payouts associated with racing.
“This is just a get-rich-quick scheme,” said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “It could lead to the downfall of the thoroughbred industry. We’re fighting this tooth and nail because it’s our future.”