TALLAHASSEE — The Florida First District Court of Appeal has reversed a lower court ruling that denied a Miami casino and resort owner's jai alai license for the summer season.
In an opinion authored by Judge Harvey Jay, the court found that state gaming regulators erred in denying a license to West Flagler Associates LTD, a holding company that operates the Magic City Casino in Miami.
The ruling was in response to a to a recent change in Florida law that allows for pari-mutuel gaming operators to convert their permits to summer jai-alai permits. The change allowed for the two lowest operators, whose gambling revenue over a two-year period was among the lowest in the county, to convert.
If the either or both of the lowest-ranking operators by revenue declined to convert, then another operator could seek the permit conversion in their place.
In 2015, West Flagler Associates applied for a permit based on revenues from 2012 and 2013. State gambling regulators rejected the application, citing language in section 550.0745 of the Florida statute, which provides a time frame in which losses are considered in the granting or jai-alai permits.
“The application is based on the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 fiscal years, which are not the 2 consecutive years next prior to the filing of this application," the Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering wrote in a letter to West Flagler Associates’ attorney. "Therefore, your application is incapable of being approved and the division is not making any further determination on the merits of the availability of a permit.”
But Jay disagreed with the lower court’s reading of the law. Jay said that the section of the statute regarding “2 consecutive years prior to the filing of the application” only applies to gaming operators seeking to convert their pari-mutuel permits to summer jai-alai permits, not to operators seeking new permits.
Jay ordered state regulators to reinstate West Flagler Associates’ application.
Jay was joined in the ruling by judges Timothy Osterhaus and Allen Winsor.