Unanimous decision

Florida's Supreme Court rejects slot machines expansion

Justice Charles Canady authored the ruling.

United States 
| 19/05/2017

The institution ruled that Florida counties have no legal authority to ask voters to approve slot machines at existing pari-mutuel race tracks or jai-alai frontons without constitutional approval.

In a case brought by the owners of Gretna Racing in rural Gadsden County, the court upheld the decision by the Florida Division of Parimutuel Wagering to deny a slots license, arguing that state law does not authorize counties to conduct referendums to enable slot machines gaming, The Miami Herald reported.

“In the absence of such a specific authorization, a county cannot initiate a referendum that will authorize the Division to issue a license any more than the county could itself issue a slot machine gaming license,” wrote Justice Charles Canady.

The decision was signed by five other justices, including the court’s newest justice, Alan C. Lawson.

Gretna’s lawyers had argued that when the Florida Legislature modified the slots statute to allow Hialeah Park to operate slot machines it opened the door for other counties to seek voter approval to bring the games to their pari-mutuel facilities.

But, Canady argued, that while “slot machine gaming is permitted under tight restrictions as laid out by the Legislature in chapter 551” nothing in the statute “grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county. The only role that counties play regarding slot machine gaming is conducting referenda when authorized by law.”

If the court had allowed counties to expand slot machines across the state, it could have invalidated the gaming compact that gives the tribe exclusive operation of slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties in exchange for $120 million a year in revenues to the state.

Yogonet.com/miamiherald.com

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