Magic City: Regulators OK ‘Biggest Casino Deal’ in Florida History

Posted on: February 10, 2023, 04:43h. 

Last updated on: February 10, 2023, 05:42h.

Florida’s Gaming Control Commission has approved the transfer of the gaming license held by Miami’s Magic Casino to the Poarch Creek Band of Mission Indians. That paves the way for the Alabama-based tribe to buy the casino from owner West Flagler Associates (WFA) in what will likely be the biggest casino acquisition in Florida history.

Magic City Casino, West Flagler Associates, Miami, Poarch Creeks
Magic City Casino, a rooftop view. The venue has been owned by the Havenick family for generations. The Poarch Creeks of Alabama moved one step closer to taking over this week. (Image: West Flagler Associates)

The purchase price has not been disclosed publicly. But industry insiders estimate $600 million.

Florida has bigger casinos than Magic City, a card room and a pari-mutuel venue, albeit one of the few that are permitted to offer slots, hence the price tag.

But the state’s sprawling Hard Rock-branded casino resorts are all owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which couldn’t sell them to another operator even if they wanted to. They exist because of gaming rights afforded to the Seminoles on their sovereign land, which are non-transferable.

Poarch Creek Expansion

With the acquisition of Magic City, the Poarch Creeks are rolling the dice on a commercial gaming venue far from their reservation in Alabama, where they own the state’s three casinos under their Wind Creek brand.

But not for the first time.  The tribe already owns two properties in North Florida, a card room in Pensacola, and a barrel racing track and card room in Gretna.

The Poarch Creeks have been expanding their gaming footprint across the US for the past decade. Most notably, they acquired the Sands Bethlehem from LVS in 2019 for $1.3 billion, renaming it the Wind Creek Bethlehem.

While the price is unknown, it’s an all-cash deal to acquire 100% of Magic City. Meanwhile, the tribe’s gaming arm, PCI Gaming, has said it will retain all of the venues’ employees, except for some senior executives who will remain with WFA, The Miami Herald reports.

WFA also runs the Bonita Springs Poker Room near Fort Myers, which will remain in its control.

Legacy Venue

This will be the first time the venue has changed hands. Originally known as the Flagler Dog Track, it has been a family-run business since 1952, passing through three generations of the Havenick family, which owns WFA.

The dog track closed in 2018, and gambling on greyhound racing is now illegal in Florida. Jay Dorris, president and CEO of PCI Gaming subsidiary Wind Creek Hospitality, said in a statement this week that the 30-acre track could be redeveloped into a hotel resort. But those changes are likely to come further down the line.

“We’re very pleased that the commission made their conditional approval,’’ he said. “We’ll get the deal closed, and we’re going to be very transparent and provide them with whatever info they need.

“This purchase is a fantastic opportunity to expand on a successful business and intends to improve the property and make additional investments,” he added.

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