Future of Florida gambling could be decided by fate of rural Gadsden racetrack
The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over whether a nascent, small racetrack in the impoverished North Florida town of Gretna will turn the tables on the state’s gambling future.
The issue before the court is whether Gretna Racing is entitled to slot machines because voters approved a countywide referendum in 2012. If the court agrees, the ruling will go far beyond rural Gadsden County.
It will have repercussions from Palm Beach and Naples to Jacksonville, and could usher in the explosive growth of gambling across the state. It could also change the terms of the $250 million-a-year gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida —which is invalidated if slot machines are allowed outside of Miami-Dade and Broward.
At least five other counties—Brevard, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, and Washington — have already voted to bring casinos to their stressed horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons. They each have already completed applications for a slots license and Palm Beach has announced it could install them within weeks. Other counties, including Duval and Marion, are prepared to conduct a referendum, too, if the court agrees with Gretna.
If the court rejects Gretna’s argument, however, the pressure will be back on legislators to fix what many consider a porous gaming regulatory structure — rife with room for legal loopholes, pursued by gambling lobbyists to win slots licenses, and subject to inconsistent interpretations by Florida regulators. Story here.