During the second GOP debate, Jeb Bush said that Florida stood up to Donald Trump when he tried to bring casino gambling to Florida.
Here is part of their testy exchange:
Bush: "He wanted casino gambling in Florida -- "
Trump: "I didn’t -- "
Bush: "Yes, you did."
Trump: "Totally false."
Bush: "You wanted it, and you didn’t get it, because I was opposed to -- "
Trump: "I would have gotten it."
Bush: " -- casino gambling before -- "
Trump: "I promise, I would have gotten it."
Bush: " -- during and after. I’m not going to be bought by anybody."
Trump: "I promise, if I wanted it, I would have gotten it."
Later, Bush added, "When he asked Florida to have casino gambling, we said no."
Did Trump ask to bring casino gambling to Florida, and did Florida under Bush shut him down?
Trump’s history on casino gambling in Florida
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to provide any evidence to refute Bush’s claim. A spokeswoman for Bush referred us to a Sept. 1 CNN article headlined "Jeb Bush: the man who killed Trump’s casino dreams."
News reports from the 1990s show that Trump helped finance Bush’s campaign and the state Republican Party during Bush’s 1998 bid for governor -- while Trump was seeking to open casinos in Florida.
Trump held a 1997 fundraiser, which reportedly raised $500,000 for Bush when he ran for governor, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. As the race continued the next year, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts donated $50,000 to the Republican Party of Florida, when Trump was pushing the state to allow him to open casinos on Seminole tribal land. The tribe was seeking to open Vegas-style slot machines and poker in casinos, to be managed by Trump.
Trump backed a 1998 Seminole proposal to state officials to share gambling revenue with Florida. He also hosted a Seminole leader on his vacation estate that year, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
Bush, meanwhile, was already known as an opponent of gambling because he had served on the board of No Casinos, a group that organized a few years earlier to fight casinos in Florida.
State Republicans said at the time that donations from gambling interests had no bearing on the party’s agenda.
''It's not like our people say, 'You give us $ 50,000, buddy boy, and this is what you're gonna get,'' said Bob Sparks, Republican Party spokesman, according to a 1998 Sun-Sentinel report. ''Both Jeb Bush and the party have expressed no interest at all in expanding gambling."
Bush took office in 1999 and maintained his stance on casinos.
"I am opposed to casino gambling in this state, and I am opposed whether it is on Indian property or otherwise," Bush told the Tampa Bay Times in 1999. Bush also threatened to sue to prevent gambling in the state.
In 2005, Bloomberg Business wrote a story about Trump’s failed attempt to bring casinos to Florida and his falling out with his consultant Richard T. Fields. (Bloomberg Business drew information from court filings. In 2004, Trump sued Fields in Broward County Circuit Court, and Fields intervened in the bankruptcy of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc.)
From Bloomberg Business:
"Fields negotiated on Trump's behalf with the Seminoles to build and manage casinos on tribal property. Fields maintains in court documents that Trump was only interested in building ‘Class III’ casinos, offering pure games of chance, such as slot machines, craps, and roulette. When Florida Governor Jeb Bush nixed the idea, ‘Trump directed that the effort be terminated entirely,’ Fields's filings say.
"But Fields says Trump gave him the green light to try on his own. That's backed up by an affidavit signed in August from Mallory E. Horne, a lobbyist hired by Trump. Horne testified that he told Trump and Fields in late 1998 that Florida officials wouldn't budge. According to Horne, Trump replied, ‘That's the end of it,’ then told Fields: ‘If you want to try this on your own, Richard, that's fine, but I'm through with it.’ "
Bush said of Trump, "When he asked Florida to have casino gambling, we said no."
We didn’t find that Trump directly petitioned the state for gambling, but there’s a pile of evidence that Trump was pursuing a deal to operate casinos on Seminole land in Florida. And at the same time, Trump gave money to Bush and the state party during Bush’s 1998 race for governor.
Trump said it was "totally false" that he sought casino gambling and failed, but we find that Bush has the better part of this fight. We rate Bush’s statement Mostly True.