On Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court heard opening arguments in the case of Gretna Racing, LLC v. Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which stems from Gretna Racing’s attempts to add slot machines to its track facility in Gadsden County operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
The case issues revolve around interpretations of a 2009 law legalizing slot machines for pari-mutuels. The question facing the high court is whether it was the intent of the Florida Legislature to allow dog and horse tracks throughout the state to have slots by way of county referendums, or if the machines are permitted for a county only when specifically approved by the Legislature, or if the state’s residents approve it by constitutional amendment.
If the court reaches a decision that favors Gretna, it could have far-reaching implications across Florida as voters in six counties, including Palm Beach, Gadsden, Hamilton, Washington, Brevard, and Lee counties all approved the machines in their respective counties. It could also mean that the Palm Beach Kennel Club in Palm beach County could get slot machines. Voters in Gadsden County, one of the state’s poorest counties, approved slot machines in a 2012 referendum and the same year voters in the other five counties also passed slot referendums.
According to the state, Florida’s constitution only permits such machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and that the addition of slot machines would have to be approved either by the Legislature or statewide approval of a constitutional amendment by voters. Jonathan Williams, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s lawyer, told the state supreme court justices, “You cannot grant a slot machine license to any facility outside of Broward or Miami-Dade County,” according to the SunSentinel. However, Gretna Racing’s lawyer, Marc Dunbar, argued that the “statutory or constitutional authorization” portion of the law “refers to the home rule of the counties. Noncharter counties receive their home rule authority from statute. Charter counties receive their home rule authority from the constitution.”
Meanwhile, dueling motions for summary judgment were filed on Friday by the Seminole Tribe and Gov. Rick Scott, and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The Seminole Tribe is asking U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to declare that tribal casinos are authorized to maintain the operation of banked card games, including blackjack, for a period of 15 more years. That exclusivity was part of an original 20-year agreement between the tribe and former Governor Crist in 2010. The tribe is also asking that the court order the state to return to negotiations. While the state has asked Judge Hinkle to rule against the tribe’s allegation that it failed to carry out negotiations in good faith.