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Tracks paying Horne $100,000 to tout slots proposal

Former Education Commissioner Jim Horne said he is being paid $100,000 by horse and dog track owners for two months' work to help pass a constitutional amendment that would allow voters in South Florida to approve slot machines at parimutuel tracks.

Earlier this week, Horne refused to say how much he was making or who was picking up the tab because he now works in the private sector.

"After I thought about it, I decided you are probably right, this is a very public issue," Horne said Wednesday.

Horne said Calder Race Course in Miami, Hollywood Greyhound Race Track, Flagler Dog Track in Miami and the Pompano Park Harness Track in Pompano Beach are sharing the payments that will be reported as "in kind" contributions.

Each track is paying him $12,500 a month for two months, and they have an agreement to renegotiate the contract if there is a reason for him to remain on the payroll after the Nov. 2 election, Horne said.

Horne left his $232,000 position as education commissioner last month, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. He took this job despite longstanding opposition to gambling throughout his career as a state senator and as the governor's top education official.

Gov. Jeb Bush opposes the amendment and has said he views it as an expansion of gambling. Horne says he doesn't view it as an expansion, but as a potential benefit for education.

Proponents of the amendment say it would raise more than $438-million for education the first year and as much as $2.34-billion over five years. That money would come from taxes on gambling proceeds and would be spent statewide, Horne says.

The four racetracks have already invested more than $12-million in the fight to get the amendment on the ballot.

If voters throughout the state approve Amendment 4, voters in Broward and Miami-Dade will get a chance to vote on whether the parimutuel facilities in the two counties can install slot machines.

Parimutuel lobbyists have fought for an expansion of gambling rights for years, saying tracks have suffered financially since the state lottery began in 1988.