Florida Slots Expansion Bill Defeated – Keeps State Gaming Pact Alive

The Florida Supreme Court has struck down legislation to allow slots expansion across individual counties.

According to the Miami Herald, the Supreme Court stated that counties don’t have the legal authority to ask voters to approve slots at racetracks and jai-alai venues.

Gretna Racing, located in rural Gadsden County, heavily pushed for slot machines. But the court upheld a decision by the Florida Division of Parimutuel Wagering to prevent slots licensing. The judges argued that state law doesn’t give counties a right to conduct slots-related referendums.

Justice Charles Canady wrote the following:

“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.”

Gretna’s lawyers argued that Florida politicians opened the door for counties to offer slots-related referendums when they allowed Hialeah Park to have slot machines.

Canady countered by saying that no statue “grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county. The only role that counties play regarding slot machine gaming is conducting referendum when authorized by law.”

What if Slots Expansion had been Allowed?

If the Florida Supreme Court ruled differently, it would’ve opened the door for numerous counties to offer more slot machines. Eight counties — Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Lee, Hamilton, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington — were hoping for a different ruling so they could install slots at their jai-alai frontons and dog tracks.

Another side of this is that the state’s gaming pact with the Seminole Tribe won’t be violated. The Sunshine State currently has a pact where the Seminoles have gaming exclusivity, in exchange for up to $300 million in shared slots revenue.

Allowing counties to expand slot machines likely would’ve violated the tribal gaming pact.

Looking Ahead to Florida’s Slots Situation

While counties won’t be allowed to offer slots based on voter referendums, they could still push for future legislation.

Specifically, state politicians could vote to allow counties to offer slot machines. But the state would likely include the Seminole Tribe in the discussion.

That said, it’s not totally outside the bounds to think that we could see Florida slots expansion within the next 5-10 years.