Supreme Court decision to stay out of slots highlights Palm Beach County caseby Dara Kam | April 27th, 2012
The Florida Supreme Court on Friday refused to wade into a lower court decision that opened the door for slot machines at pari-mutuels throughout the state, elevating a Palm Beach County challenge to a proposed slots referendum this fall.
The Supreme Court dismissed appeals by several Miami-Dade County pari-mutuels challenging whether slots should be limited to seven pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
That appellate court decision last fall opened the door for counties, including Palm Beach, to put referenda before voters allowing them to decide whether their pari-mutuels should be allowed to have more lucrative slot machine gambling.
Gambling lawyers throughout the state and Gov. Rick Scott’s administration officials were anxiously awaiting what many hoped would be a Supreme Court decision settling the issue.
Instead, focus is now on the Palm Beach County lawsuit filed by a Boca Raton woman last month. The Palm Beach court case could ripple throughout the state if Judge Janis Keyser yanks the referendum off the ballot.
“Obviously every pari-mutuel in the state is watching that with eager interest,” Marc Dunbar, an attorney who represents Gulfstream Race Track and who also is a part-owner of a Gretna horse track in Gadsden County, where he hopes to soon start slot machine gambling. “All of a sudden all eyes go to Palm Beach.”
Lawyers representing the county are expected to file their briefs Monday in the case.
County commissioners voted in December to place the referendum on the ballot in the hopes that a favorable vote would lead to slot machines at the Palm Beach County Kennel Club. Voters in three counties – Gadsden, Hamilton and Washington – have already signed off on the measures.
The Palm Beach County lawsuit filed by Boca Raton resident Sandra Medlicott centers on an opinion issued by Attorney General Pam Bondi earlier this year saying pari-mutuels should not be authorized to offer slots without changes to the state constitution or permission from the Legislature.