Donald Trump, the new owner of the Doral Golf Resort & Spa, is barreling ahead with his $250 million remake of the once-troubled facility, but is he also ready to pave the way for casinos in Florida?
The Donald this month hired Tallahassee uber-lobbyist Brian Ballard to represent him in the Capital City and, he told the Herald/Times, Florida would be foolish to not let Miami compete with Las Vegas.
"If Miami doesn't do casinos, that would be a terrible mistake," Trump said in an interview on Friday. "Taxes would be able to be reduced substantially and Miami is the only place that Las Vegas is really concerned about -- in the United States."
Florida legislators are expected to piece together some sort of gambling bill when the legislature begins its session next March but the scope of it, and whether it will include destination resorts that expand casino gambling in South Florida, remains to be seen. Lawmakers postponed plans to do a series of hearings around the state this summer and are awaiting an information-gathering report from the Spectrum Gaming group to be completed this fall.
Trump added the Doral resort to his resort empire last year when he paid $150 million for the property previously purchased by Morgan Stanley for $501 million in 2007. He has hired golf course architect Gil Hanse to put the scare back into the golf course's famed Blue Monster, and vows "there will be nothing to compare to it."
Ballard, who also represents casino giant Genting, said his work for Trump is broader than pushing for gambling expansion. "Trump has a lot of activities in Florida,'' he said. "It is broad representation in all matters regarding development and infrastructure."
Trump, whose skill as a pitchman are as smooth as his deal making, said his redevelopment plans are 70 percent complete and the Blue Monster will be ready to open by Dec. 1, "two weeks ahead of schedule" and in time for the next major PGA tour event next spring.
"It far exceeds what I promised Doral and Miami,'' he boasted. "The clubhouse is gutted to the shell. Instead of just a paint job, it's new to the core."
He said, however, that bringing casinos to South Florida may take some time but his investment will be there. "If [casino] gambling ever comes to Florida, Doral is the single, best location. We're on the airport. The on the main drive. Every highway leads there. And I have 800 acres."