The plans look amazing. It’s a $500 Million Dollar project that would change the landscape on the site of the former Orlando Jai-alai property forever. But with a small poker room in the plans – encompassing just 5% of the overall picture – was the sticking point. Seminole county commissions, in a 5-0 vote killed the entire project.
It is totally amazing that such a massive and game changing project would be turned down for something that has been taking place on the very same property for decades – until the fronton was closed and currently rented out to a church (of all things!).
Richard Burdoff, owner of the 50-acre site that had hosted Jai Alai for over 50 years, teamed up with developers the Cordish Companies for a high-density, mixed-use development called Oxford Park. The project would include about 1,200 luxury apartments, high-end retail stores and a large country music themed restaurant/sports entertainment venue that would host poker and perhaps sports betting (if ever allowed again).
“There will be no slots, no blackjack, no other casino,” Mark Jones, attorney for developers Cordish Companies said. “This is a small poker room. Of the 50,000 square foot venue, it is only 5%.”
Unfortunately, it’s that small poker room that put a halt in the project moving forward. Because the plans have this “element of gambling” in it, in order to get the project approved, the citizens would have to vote on it on the November ballot. The developers have two ways to get it on the ballot- get 25,000 signatures through a citizen petition or get the Seminole County Board of County Commissioners to draft and approve an ordinance to put it on the ballot.
“We are here to ask the commissioners put this matter on the ballot for the voter to decide if they want this incredible project to go forward,” Jones said.
The developers explained to the commissioners they didn’t want to go door-to-door to get citizens’ signatures because of other petitioners fighting for gambling in Florida. This would include the large Vegas hotels trying to get casinos approved in Jacksonville and possible other northern Florida locations. Statewide ads have been running in Florida markets urging people not to sign the petition going on. They believed it would only confuse citizens more, which is true.
“We would get misunderstood. That is not what we are about,” said David Cordish, Chairman of Cordish Companies. “It’s a small social. It would be a mistake for us to go out in the face of these massive petition drives that are going on that we have nothing to do with.”
Only four residents in the courtroom were in favor of the project while several others were opposed.
After the 5-to-0 vote, the county commissioner Lee Constantine said, “I just didn’t feel this is the right move for Seminole County,” .
“To bypass the citizen petition and that’s going to be expected on other issues,” Commissioner Andria Herr said. “I can’t get past the fact that if the poker room doesn’t go through, we can’t go through with this project.”
Mark Jones, the attorney for the development, said the plans look dead at this time stating it would be impossible to get 25,000 signatures in three months.
Will they pull out of the gambling business altogether and proceed with the project? Seems like their only option at this point. Getting gambling approved again in Seminole county would be as difficult as hitting back to back spins of a major jackpot on a slot machine.