Miami-Dade Sets Slots Vote for March 8

Miami-Dade County (Florida) voters, like their counterparts in Broward County, will decide March 8 whether to permit slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities.

Broward County officials approved the March 8 date during a Jan. 18 meeting. Miami-Dade officials approved the same date during a Jan. 20 meeting, but not before a conflict that almost doomed the plan.

Miami-Dade commissioners discussed putting a question on whether to raise their pay on the ballot along with the slots question, the Miami Herald reported. After five hours and some pressure from the pari-mutuel industry, they opted not to pursue a salary vote.

The pari-mutuel industry believes it's imperative to have both counties vote on March 8, about the time when the Florida legislative session begins. The horse and dog tracks and jai-alai frontons plan an advertising blitz to sell the slots plan to the public.

The Herald reported Miami-Dade County would get about $3.5 million from slots in the first year, and up to $10 million in later years. It would receive a $4-million advance payment to indirectly cover the cost of the election.

Linda Mills, president of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said the organization would actively seek help from its about 1,500 members in South Florida.

"There will be a campaign to contact those members and ask them at a minimum to contact friends, family members, and business associates explaining to them how important it is to vote," Mills said. "These elections are generally low-turnout, so every vote will count. March 8 will be a huge turning point for South Florida racing, hopefully for the better."

The county votes were made possible through passage of a statewide referendum last November. In that election, the slots question passed by a comfortable margin in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.