Florida's gaming future is in the hands of the courts; special session 'unlikely'
When legislators finished their annual session last week without a gaming bill or a compact with the Seminole Tribe, they raised the stakes on the future of casinos in Florida, and it’s precisely where gaming opponents want it.
Instead of lawmakers deciding the future of expanded gambling, that decision will now be made by the courts in pending lawsuits before the Florida Supreme Court and a federal judge.
The court could conclude that lawmakers have no authority to authorize slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties without statewide voter approval, thereby neutering the Legislature’s influence. It could say that only the Legislature can decide where to put new games.
Or a third option — the most explosive of all and the one the plaintiffs are hoping for — could open the door to unprecedented expansion of slot machines if the court rules that Palm Beach and Gadsden counties could seek permits to install slots machines because local voters have approved it.
“It could become a free-for-all for slot machines across the state,” said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, the House’s chief negotiator who spent the last six months trying to work out acompact with the governor and the tribe, as well as a gaming bill that suited the Senate and the diverse interests of the pari-mutuel industry.
“If that happens, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. The pari-mutuels across the state will argue they have some vested right to slot machines, and they will fight tooth and nail to make sure their legislators are not voting against them.” Story here.