Class II slots for tracks?

Mar 29, 2005 5:48 AM

Florida’s proponents of slot machines at racetracks were looking at Class III or Las Vegas-type devices when they made their pitch to the voters of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. But success in Broward County has caused state lawmakers, especially those who like Gov. Jeb Bush are gaming opponents, to focus on Class II machines, just like those used at the Seminole Indian casinos.

Problem facing the lawmakers is that if Class III machines are permitted at Gulfstream Park, owned by Magna Entertainment Corporation (MECA); Pompano Park harness track, owned by Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE), and at a dog track and a jai-alai fronton, then the state might be forced to negotiate a gaming compact with the Seminoles that would permit the tribe to put Class III machines at their six casinos. Also involved would be the Miccosukee Tribe that operates a Class II machine casino just west of Miami.

The second issue facing the lawmakers is the amount of state tax they plan to impose on these racino machines. Early indications favored a sliding scale of between 45% and 65%, depending on the number of machines being operated by the pari-mutuel outlets.

A spokesman for the tracks said they might not object to the Class II restriction provided the level of taxation allows the operators to develop what he described as "first-class entertainment complexes."

The head of the House Business Regulation Committee said he believed the tracks would settle for the Class II machines but his counterpart in the Senate said he believes the language of the ballot measure that the voters approved requires the so-called traditional Class III slot machines.