Jeffrey Soffer closes deal to buy South Florida's Mardi Gras Casino - Florida Politics

Jeffrey Soffer closes deal to buy South Florida’s Mardi Gras Casino

Real estate billionaire Jeffrey Soffer has closed on a deal to buy South Florida’s former Mardi Gras Casino and Race Track.

The closing was disclosed in a final order filed Monday and released Tuesday by the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

But the department, which regulates gambling in the state, withheld a final OK for a slot machine license, pending Soffer’s 831 Federal Highway Acquisition company paying $2 million for the license fee and a $250,000 “regulatory fee.”

Otherwise, “this Final Order approves of the transfer of assets and ownership interests” of its other gambling permits, the department said.

The sale marks an end to the four-decade long ownership of the Hallandale Beach facility by Hartman & Tyner (H&T), a Southfield, Michigan property management firm. Now named “The Big Easy Casino,” it has been closed since it was damaged by Hurricane Irma, though a poker room has since reopened. 

It also marks the completion of Soffer’s quest to buy the property.

The Soffer-family controlled Turnberry Associates real estate development company also owns Miami Beach’s famed Fontainebleau Resort

Speculation arose whether Soffer wanted to move the casino license from the Hallandale Beach track to the Fontainebleau. But according to Soffer, “such a move is both illegal and not in the cards.”

“I just like the real estate … I like the business. I think it’s a good opportunity,” he told the Miami Herald in January. 

Soffer had retained lobbyist Michael Corcoran, brother of GOP House Speaker and likely candidate for governor Richard Corcoran.

And, as reported by The Associated Press in January 2017, Senate President-designate Bill Galvano “acknowledged that he did legal work for Turnberry Associates on a ‘commercial transaction’ as recently as three years ago.” Galvano, past president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, has long been the Legislature’s go-to man on gambling issues.

The terms of the Mardi Gras sale were not disclosed in the DBPR’s final order, but The Real Deal, a South Florida real estate news website, reported last month that Soffer “paid $12.5 million” for the nearly 28-acre property “and financed the deal with a $19.5 million mortgage from Florida Community Bank.”

A message seeking comment from Soffer was left Tuesday.

It wasn’t immediately clear what involvement longtime casino head Dan Adkins will have with the facility. A request for comment from him also is pending.

As Florida Politics reported in March, Adkins had been locked in a legal battle with H&T and its directors, accusing them in federal court of lying to him that he’d be paid “millions of dollars” upon sale of the company’s gambling businesses in Florida, West Virginia and Michigan.

H&T struck back by filing its own federal suit, saying the 60-year-old Adkins “engag(ed) in self-dealing, corporate waste, and gross mismanagement … conceal(ing) the poor financial state of H&T’s businesses caused by his misconduct so that he could … enrich himself and his family members.”

H&T’s suit also blamed Mardi Gras’ damages on Adkins, saying “oversight was poor, (and) the roof of the racetrack came off during Hurricane Irma because it was incorrectly installed under Adkins’s direction.” 

Those cases were settled out of court and closed last month, dockets show.

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.
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