Voters in Gadsden and Washington counties gave hearty approval to slot machines at their pari-mutuel facilities yesterday, but expect to see nothing but legal battles in the coming months. Despite the public vote, the tracks still have to get a slot license from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which has said it will not license anyone because of Attorney General Pam Bondi’s non-binding decision earlier this month.
Bondi said that any referendum must be authorized by a statute or constitutional provision, which doesn’t exist, so slot machines outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties are illegal under Florida law.
Meanwhile, legislators continue to work on gaming bills in the state, and not only the resort casino issue in South Florida. Two Senate bills would legalize slots in Gadsden and Washington counties, and another bill would allow Brevard, Lee and Palm Beach counties to hold referendums of their own. Legislators are mindful of the public acceptance of slots, and they want their districts to have the same economic benefits as others with slot machines.
So it remains to be seen what will happen at Ebro Greyhound Park in Washington County (voter approval was 57 percent) and at Creek Entertainment Gretna (63 percent approval). The latter is already battling for life as opponents continue efforts to stop pari-mutuel barrel racing.
Meanwhile, Miami residents have another gaming option now that Casino Miami Jai-Alai opened for business just a week ago. It will be worth watching what impact the facility has on the other properties in the area, particularly the Magic City Casino at Flagler.