ORLANDO – Voters
in Florida have voted down attempts to bring casino-style gambling to the state
multiple times: in 1976, 1988 and 1994. They did, however, approve a measure
that legalized slot machines in pari-mutuel facilities that had conducted horse
racing in the previous two years, specifically in Miami-Dade and Broward
counties, and only in those two counties.
group called No Casinos is opposing attempts to expand the reach of gambling
establishments in the state of Florida
for several reasons, according to John Sowinski, president of No Casinos.
think that the social economic costs far outweigh the benefits,” Sowinski recently told the Florida Record.
Florida’s economy is largely built on tourism, the group believes that casino
revenue “cannibalizes revenues from other sources.”
attempt by Gretna LLC to obtain a license to add slot machines to a horse track
outside of those two counties, in Gadsden County, to be exact, was denied by
the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering in 2013, and led to a challenge in the 1st District Court of Appeal.
The 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the division’s decision and the state
Supreme Court is expected to take up the case later this year. No Casinos and former Florida governor and
Sen. Bob Graham have both filed separate amicus briefs in the Supreme Court’s
Casinos sees a constitutional question that must be considered when it comes to
the expansion of gambling in the state. Article 10, Section 7 states that
decisions about casino-style gambling must be made by voters, not the legislature.
10, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution states that “Lotteries, other
than the types of pari-mutuel pools authorized by law as of the effective date
of this constitution [in 1968] are hereby prohibited in this state.”
has approved seven pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, after
countywide referenda and local approval. There is one other facility, Hialeah Park,
which was allowed to install slot machines after the state legislature
authorized slot machines at pari-mutuel wagering facilities in counties that
meet certain requirements – or where wagering on live racing has occurred in
the previous two years. It’s the other requirements that allowed Hialeah Park
to install slot machines.
2004, voters passed an amendment that legalized slot machines in pari-mutuel
facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties,” Sowinski said. “We think it’s
wrong for the legislators or the court to say it’s okay to have casino-style
gambling even though the voters were promised that it would be limited to those
state’s constitution does not allow slot machines, craps or roulette, and it
is the position of No Casinos that a voter-approved amendment to the
constitution is the only way that these would be allowed outside the 2004
amendment that allowed slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
sees a potential for one of three different outcomes when the Supreme Court hears
Gretna LLC’s appeal in later this year.
“The first is
that Gretna wins," he said. "The second possibility is that the state wins based on the
statutory framework, and not the constitutional argument (they could tell
Gretna they are wrong and not address the constitutional argument). They could
rule in our favor and say Gretna is not entitled to the expansion because it is
not provided for in the constitution, and the legislature cannot do whatever it
wants. If the court rules our way, it would
preserve the status quo and take casino-style gambling of the table.”