The Florida Supreme Court is being asked to allow an argument at a future hearing against an amendment to the constitution which would give voters exclusive rights over gambling expansion in the state.
On Monday, a request for oral argument (pdf) was filed on behalf of “Floridians for Clarity in Gaming Control,” by Marc Dunbar, an attorney, and lobbyist, representing horse and dog tracks. According to Dunbar’s brief, the opponent group consists of businesses and individuals who share a common concern about the proposed amendment and who range from “registered voters in Seminole County, Florida to arcade operators, members of Native American tribes, casino and lottery vendors and pari-mutuel permit holders,” as reported by Florida Politics.
Dunbar also represents Gretna Racing and on June 6 the high 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 court will decide 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, approval by the Legislature, or if the state’s residents approve it by constitutional amendment. Tribal lawyers say that because voters in Gadsden County approved slot machines in a 2012 referendum, the machines should be allowed at their facility.
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 also approved the machines later in 2012.
Earlier this month, Dan Gelber, a Miami attorney, also filed a request with the court, but this one on behalf of the committee responsible for the amendment, Voters In Charge. The committee’s proposal, The Voter Control of Gambling amendment, would give the state’s voters exclusive rights over gambling expansion, according to the ballot summary. The aim is for the amendment to appear on a statewide ballot in 2018.
Meanwhile, dueling motions for summary judgment were filed earlier this month by the Seminole Tribe and Gov. Rick Scott, and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The Seminole Tribe is asking a judge 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 the judge to rule against the tribe’s allegation that it failed to carry out negotiations in good faith.