A potential Trump casino project in Florida faces long odds and steep opposition By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports March 20, 2021 at 5:00 am The troubles facing former President Donald Trump’s faltering business empire were well documented by Bloomberg News this week. Jumping back into the casino industry, however, probably isn’t the most viable solution that would be offered up by Trump’s creditors. They are owed some $590 million in loans that come due over the next few years. Based on Trump’s gaming industry track record, bankruptcy lawyers could be the only group excited by news reports that he may be eyeing a casino for his struggling Trump National Doral golf club near Miami. However, Florida’s Seminole Indian Tribe, Disney Corp., and the state constitution block the path for another Trump gaming enterprise. First reported by the Washington Post, Trump is said to be looking at acquiring a gaming license currently owned by a jai-alai facility or racetrack, and would transfer it to the golf property. Trump’s son, Eric Trump, said in a statement, “Many people consider Trump Doral to be unmatched from a gaming perspective. At 700 acres, properties just don’t exist of that size and quality in South Florida, let alone in the heart of Miami.” It looks like the hyperbole apple didn’t fall far from the tree. A commemorative plaque honoring Donald Trump in front of the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City in 2013. It has since been removed. Gambling expansion isn’t that simple in Florida. Seminole Gaming, which owns Hard Rock International, operates six of the state’s seven tribal casino properties. No lawmaker in Tallahassee seems willing to oppose the tribe when it comes to Florida gaming. The same holds true for Disney, which once abhorred legal gambling. But since the legalization of sports betting, the entertainment conglomerate has softened its stance, thanks primarily to its ownership of the ESPN franchise. Together, the Seminoles and Disney have spent millions of dollars defeating Florida gaming expansion efforts. In 2018, they threw their considerable weight behind the passage of Amendment 3, which changed the state constitution. Casino-style gambling can’t be expanded away from tribal lands unless it is approved in a statewide ballot measure that earns at least 60% support. Republican legislators in Florida are reportedly considering a bill that would allow the gaming-license transfer process. But the idea has drawn opposition from the anti-gaming lobby. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the Associated Press that the governor and legislative Republicans would have to choose between “loyalty to Trump or loyalty to their constituents.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may be a Trump ally, but who is going to bet against the Seminoles, Disney, and the constitution? Even if Trump were to acquire a gaming license, good luck financing a casino deal. Bloomberg, using a graphic presentation, showed that the former president’s net worth has fallen by $700 million, and the value of his commercial real estate is down some 26%. According to Bloomberg, Trump personally guaranteed $330 million of debt tied to his hotel in Washington, D.C., a Chicago property, and the Doral golf resort. Following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by protestors loyal to Trump, Deutsche Bank, his primary lender, said it would no longer do business with the ex-president. One just has to look at Trump’s casino-ownership history to understand that development of a Florida gaming venture wouldn’t end well for the former president. His Trump Entertainment Resorts filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization four times between 1991 and 2014. He finally lost control of the business, except for a licensing fee to utilize the Trump name. Corporate raider Carl Icahn now controls Trump Entertainment. Once prominent in Atlantic City, the Trump name has disappeared. The Trump Marina Resort is now Golden Nugget Atlantic City. The $1 billion Trump Taj Mahal, which led to the company’s first bankruptcy, is now Hard Rock Atlantic City, purchased by the Seminoles for $50 million. Trump Plaza, which closed in 2014, is a pile of rubble following its February implosion. Trump’s partnership with an Indian tribe for a casino in Southern California and his investment in a regional gaming property in Indiana also ended poorly. Through his business venture in the Trump International in Las Vegas with Treasure Island and Circus Circus owner Phil Ruffin, Trump’s name still hovers above the Strip. But the building, a condominium, hotel and timeshare tower, is not a gaming property. Trump’s checkered gaming past does not sit well with Floridians. “This guy has bankrupted every casino he’s ever run,” Rep. Joseph Geller, a Democratic member of Florida’s legislature told the Washington Post. “How do you bankrupt a casino? I don’t think we need a failed casino.” Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.