Appeals Court Upholds Hialeah Casino

Florida court ruling is victory for Hialeah Park's plans for Las Vegas-style slots.

A state appeals court in Tallahassee, Fla., Oct. 6 upheld a lower court ruling that allows Hialeah Park to have a casino with Las Vegas-style slot machines.

Barring an appeal to the Supreme Court of Florida by Hialeah Park's opponents in the lawsuit, the ruling clears the way for the racetrack to proceed with plans it announced Sept. 9 to build a $150 million casino

Hialeah Park officials could not be reached for comment. Michael Olin, an attorney representing plaintiffs Magic City Casino (formerly Flagler Greyhound) and Miami Jai-Alai, did not return a phone call. Calder Casino & Race Course, the other plaintiff, has a policy of not commenting on litigation.

If there is an appeal, there is a chance the Supreme Court of Florida will not hear it. That court usually is not required to consider an appeal by a party that has lost a case in a trial court and in an appeals court.

In her Oct. 6 ruling, Judge Marguerite Davis of the First District Court of Appeal wrote that the Florida legislature did not violate the Florida Constitution in 2010 when it passed a law that authorized a casino for Hialeah Park. She reaffirmed the ruling of Nov. 22, 2010, by the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Tallahassee.

The plaintiffs maintained that the 2010 law’s section on a Hialeah Park casino was unconstitutional because a constitutional amendment that statewide voters approved in 2004 did not include Hialeah Park among Florida pari-mutuel facilities eligible for casinos. Davis upheld the lower court’s opinion that the legislature has authority to expand gambling in Florida.

Also on Oct. 6 identical bills were introduced in the Florida House and Senate that would authorize as many as three “destination resorts” with hotels and casinos with a full array of Las Vegas-style table games as well as slot machines. Officials of Gulfstream Park have told The Blood-Horse their property would like to be considered as a site for a destination resort.

Hialeah Park last held Thoroughbred racing in 2001. On Dec. 10 it will begin its third Quarter Horse meet using a Quarter Horse permit it obtained in 2009.