Supreme Court Barrels Over Gretna's Gaming Efforts

Florida barrel racing track loses Supreme Court case.

Efforts to add slot machines by Gretna Racing, which offers pari-mutuel Quarter Horse Barrel Races at its facility outside of Tallahassee, hit a wall May 18 when the Supreme Court of Florida ruled the facility’s owners didn’t have the authority to offer additional gaming.

Gretna Racing had argued that as a licensed pari-mutuel facility that had local voters approve added gaming, it could add slot machines. But the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation denied Gretna’s application.

Thursday’s Supreme Court of Florida decision agreed with the regulator’s decision to deny the license. While the court noted that local voters had approved the added gaming, the court determined that ballot question was not legally authorized. The court noted that Florida law restricts such local referendums on added gaming to Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

Under that standard, voters have approved the slot machine gaming at South Florida’s Thoroughbred tracks, Gulfstream Park and Gulfstream Park West. The Supreme Court ruled that pari-mutuel facilities outside of those South Florida counties do not have the ability to add slot machines, and any local vote conducted is not legal.

In its decision, the court noted that the state constitution generally bans slot machine gambling in Florida unless there is a statutory or constitutional provision—like the one in place for pari-mutuel tracks in South Florida—in place authorizing counties to supersede the general ban.