Lawsuits Pondered as Florida Slots Plan Stalls

The failure of the Florida legislature to create regulations for slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities in Broward County may force the issue into court.

Following the May 6 adjournment of the 2005 legislative session, the consortium of four facilities granted the right to operate slot machines by a March referendum--Gulfstream Park, Dania Jai-Alia, Hollywood Greyhound Track, and Pompano Park--was considering its legal options. While industry leaders insist no decision has been made, indications are they may seek a court ruling on whether the facilities may operate slots without legislative direction.

"We're very disappointed that the legislature failed to deal with this," said Allan Solomon, executive vice president of Pompano Park. "The constitutional amendment said that rules should be in place by July 1, and I don't see that happening."

Though Gov. Jeb Bush can call a special session of the legislature, it appears unlikely he would exert such authority.

Meanwhile, Broward County, which in January agreed to certain operational regulation of slots within its borders, is considering action. While the county may set rules on matters such as the hours of operation, issues of taxation and distribution of funds is outside of its powers, according to state Rep. Randy Johnson.

Johnson told the Miami Herald the legislature would likely file a lawsuit seeking to block action by the county. "This is clearly an intrusion onto the powers of the legislature, and I think it's a power the legislature will jealously guard," he said.

Still unresolved is the type of machines the pari-mutuel facilities can install, as well as a tax rate. Some legislators are calling for a tax rate in excess of 50%, which operators believe would be prohibitive.