by Javier Manjarres
With the date of the Miami-Dade Special Election to replace ousted Mayor Carlos Alvarez still up in the air, rumors are continuing to swirl regarding Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina’s possible involvement in an illegal gaming probe being conducted by law enforcement and other independent organizations. Throughout the city of Hialeah, countless numbers of ‘maquinitas’ (little gaming machines) can be found in many types of businesses, and because of their widespread use, the scuttle is that Mayor Robaina has ties to the illegal gaming industry.
Robaina is accused of colluding with members of the so-called illegal gaming industry, as many of these individuals accused of being known illegal gaming operators have donated upwards of $75K per year to Mayor Robaina’s campaign (a still unsubstantiated allegation according to public records). According to Miami’s El Nuevo Herald, Robaina was pivotal in pushing ordinances that allowed for the use of these machines in question. One operator of particular interest is Jesus Navarro, who currently holds 81 of 405 gaming licenses issued by the City of Hialeah. Navarro is also said to have numerous other gaming companies under the names of several of his family members, including All American Amusements, Inc., based out of Hialeah that coincidentally jointly listed with individuals with the same Navarro surname.
The Robaina campaign issued the following statement regarding the donations from the supporters in question.
“All donors who have contributed to Robaina do so because they support his ideas and his message.”- Robaina Spokesperson
In addition, sources say that because these machines have have sophisticated electronics installed, store operators can remotely change the games from being an ‘entertainment device’, to a the illegal ‘game of chance’ game when a trusted patron wishes to gamble. The illegal gaming issue is sure to bring more scrutiny law enforcement and how they will deal with the illegal gaming problem that has taken hold throughout Miami-Dade county.
The Robaina campaign has announced that they have exceeded their fundraising expectations of $500K by $100K. Robaina’s is reporting that he has eclipse the $600K threshold, making him the hands-down frontrunner in the highly contentious Miami-Dade Mayoral race. Mayor Robaina released the follow statement after announcing his quarterly fundraising take:
“I am profoundly grateful for the overwhelming assistance our campaign is receiving. In just a few weeks, we have surpassed our initial fundraising goal thanks to the outpouring of support from throughout Miami-Dade. I am humbled by the growing number of residents that have enthusiastically embraced our campaign to transform County Hall, and energized by the grassroots support we are receiving and the willingness by so many to contribute their hard earned dollars to our campaign.”