Court Rules, Hialeah to Move Ahead With Slots
by Jim Freer
Date Posted: 4/27/2012 6:14:08 PM
Last Updated: 4/28/2012 9:44:34 PM

Hialeah Park
Photo: Tom LaMarra
The Florida Supreme Court April 27 upheld a decision by a lower state court that authorizes Hialeah Park to have a casino with Las Vegas-style slot machines.
 
In a short notice on its website, Florida’s highest court said it declined to consider an appeal by Calder Casino & Race Course and two other Miami-area pari-mutuel facilities that were attempting to prevent Hialeah from having a casino. After hearing of the decision, Hialeah Park owner John Brunetti told The Blood-Horse the racetrack will soon begin renovating the north side of its building, with a goal of opening a casino with 900 slot machines in the spring of 2013.
 
That would be the first phase in what he hopes will be a mixed-use gaming and retail complex at the racetrack.
 
“From what my lawyers said, I assume this (Supreme Court ruling) means that we will finally be able to have slot machines at Hialeah Park,” Brunetti said.
 
In its April 27 notice, the Florida Supreme Court said it determined “it should decline to accept jurisdiction” on the appeal by Calder and two co-plaintiffs. “It is ordered that the petition for review is denied,” the justices said. “No motion for rehearing will be entertained by the court.”
 
The issue in the suit was a 2010 state law provision that authorizes a casino for Hialeah.
 
Calder, Miami Jai-Alai, and Greyhound track Magic City Casino maintained that the provision was unconstitutional because a constitutional amendment that statewide voters approved in 2004 did not include Hialeah among Florida pari-mutuel facilities eligible for casinos. Calder and Gulfstream Park are among six Florida pari-mutuel outlets with casinos; all are in the southeast counties of Miami-Dade and Broward.
 
On Oct, 6, 2011, the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee 2011 upheld a district court ruling in favor of Hialeah. Calder and the co-plaintiffs took their case to the Florida Supreme Court Nov. 1, 2011. That court seldom considers an appeal by a party that has lost a case in a trial court and in an appeals court.
 
There is a widespread view that the decision allows the Florida legislature to authorize casinos anywhere in the state, and for any Florida county to hold a vote on whether its pari-mutuel facilities can have casinos.
 
Hialeah has not held Thoroughbred races since 2001. Its only state gaming license is for Quarter Horse racing, and it has held three Quarter Horse meets since 2009.
 
Brunetti, however, recently told The Blood-Horse it is “very possible” Hialeah will have Thoroughbred racing in April and May in 2013. Under a Florida law, up to half the races during a Quarter Horse meet can be for Thoroughbreds. 
 


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