Downtown Miami

Whatever happened to ... Magic City Casino jai-alai and card room plans for Edgewater?

The neon sign atop the Magic City Casino on Flagler Street in Miami. The casino’s owners are seeking to build a poker room and jai-alai fronton on Biscayne Boulevard in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood.
The neon sign atop the Magic City Casino on Flagler Street in Miami. The casino’s owners are seeking to build a poker room and jai-alai fronton on Biscayne Boulevard in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood. Miami Herald file photo

The owners of a jai-alai fronton and card room proposed for the trendy Edgewater neighborhood will have their day in court — in May of 2020.

West Flagler Associates, Ltd., owner of Magic City Casino, sued the city of Miami in April 2019, after the commission changed the zoning code to require a 4/5 vote on gaming establishments. That move came after West Flagler announced plans to open a jai-alai fronton and 24 cardroom tables in the heart of Edgewater, at 3050 Biscayne Blvd.

The proposal caused an uproar. Developer Jorge Perez wrote an opinion column for the Miami Herald decrying the proposal in July 2018; other civic leaders publicly spoke against the project.

West Flagler’s position: The city action came too late and specifically targeted West Flagler. It is suing for damages in excess of $750,000 and the right to build its facilities under the ordinance in effect at the time West Flagler received its permit.

According to court records, when West Flagler announced its fronton in 2017, the area was zoned to allow parimutuel betting. At that time, West Flagler had already signed an agreement with Crescent Heights development to open in a yet-to-be constructed building at the site and had obtained written confirmation from the city that gaming would be allowed in the area. In 2018, the state issued a Summer Jai Alai permit for the location.

By that time, West Flagler had already invested $350,000 in legal and other expenses, according to the records. Issuance of the permit triggered additional commitments to the property owner.

After months of wrangling, the courts have determined that the case can go forward and be heard in a jury trial.

Isadore Havenick, vice president of West Flagler, declined to comment on pending litigation.

At this point, the four-block commercial project at 3050 Biscayne Blvd. has secured about 95% of its tenants, according to Russell Galbut, managing principal of Crescent Heights. About 100,000 square feet remain at asking prices ranging between $40 to $50 per square foot. Tenants include attorneys and a variety of other businesses, Galbut said.

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