Slot machines are part of Florida Supreme Court case

Slot machines are part of Florida Supreme Court case

Anne M. Eberhardt

Florida High Court to Hear Gretna Racing Case

Northern panhandle track held barrel races and pushed for slot machines.

The Florida Supreme Court June 7 will take oral arguments on a lawsuit with major ramifications for pari-mutuel racing and casino gambling in the state.

The suit was filed by Gretna Racing against the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The state agency denied an application by Gretna Racing, which had offered controversial Quarter Horse barrel races in order to win a pari-mutuel license, to install slot machines.

Florida law permitted local referendums on slots at pari-mutuel facilities only in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, but Gretna Racing appealed the ruling on the grounds a 2009 revision in the law created opportunity for other counties to have slots at pari-mutuel outlets as long as local voters approved—which they did in Gadsden County, where Gretna Racing is located, in 2012.

The First District Court of Appeal in its most recent decision on the matter ruled against Gretna Racing and, according to a Supreme Court summary, "asked this court to review the case as a question of great public importance."

During the Florida legislative session earlier this year, lawmakers from the Florida panhandle, where Gadsden County is located, as well as other counties with economic development issues made their case for an expansion of slots at pari-mutuel facilities in the state. In the end, the legislation—and a $3 billion gaming compact with the Seminole tribe—failed to pass.

Some pari-mutuel interests in Florida, particularly Thoroughbred horsemen, labeled the barrel races at Gretna and flag-drop races at another start-up track called Hamilton Downs a sham.