Panthers Partnering With Casino Operator

Boyd Gaming and Sunrise Sports will try to bring casino gaming at the site of the BankAtlantic Center

The Florida Panthers have teamed up with Boyd Gaming Corp. to try to bring a casino to Sunrise, Florida. Sunrise Sports Entertainment, LLP, which owns the Panthers and operates the BankAtlantic Center, will join with Boyd in "the opportunity to take advantage of the potential of expanded gaming in south Florida at the site of the BankAtlantic Center," Boyd said in a statement.

Panthers officials confirmed the agreement to the Sun Sentinel, but have not commented publicly on the deal. Keith Smith, CEO of Boyd, said in the statement, "The agreement with Sunrise Sports Entertainment positions us to take advantage of a potential development opportunity in an attractive location.

"The project would be in an ideal location in Broward County, adjacent to two attractions that already draw substantial visitor volumes, with easy access to several major traffic corridors."

Neither company has the legal clearance to operate a casino in Broward County, but the state of Florida has recently considered allowing large casinos to set up shop in Florida. Currently, the only casinos in the state are on American Indian reservations.

The Sentinel noted that if the effort to secure legal approval for a casino fails, Boyd and the Panthers could try to transfer a pari-mutuel license for Dania Jai-Alai currently held by Boyd.

State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Republican from Fort Lauderdale, told the Sentinel she is skeptical that the companies can get what they want. "The problem is, I just don't see the legislature having the political will to move this issue forward," she said. "But this will force the debate to continue."

"Based on what's happened, with all the clever lawyering, I'd venture to say someone thinks they have a shot at moving the permit," she continued. "But I don't know that for sure."

The announcement was the second big move made by the Panthers this week. On Monday, the team signed restricted free agent Kris Versteeg to a four-year contract, avoiding arbitration. He scored 23 goals and 54 points in 71 games for the Panthers last season, helping send the team to the NHL playoffs for the first time in over a decade.

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