Florida tracks ask court for help

May 31, 2005 3:15 AM

When political problems develop in Florida, residents of late have been turning to the courts to help them resolve their dilemma.

That is what is happening in Broward County where the voters in March approved the installation of slot machines at three racetracks and a jai-alai fronton. However, the legislators in Tallahassee — many of whom like Gov. Jeb Bush are opposed to the expansion of gambling in the state — failed to agree on a bill that would provide guidelines for the slot machine operation and establish a tax structure.

Part of the legislative debate revolved around the types of machines that would be authorized for the racinos at Hollywood Dog Track, Pompano Harness and Gulfstream Park. Some felt that the voters had authorized the Class III machines commonly seen in Las Vegas while others felt that the vote only addressed the use of Class II machines, similar to those found in Indian casinos.

Ready to take their argument to Tallahassee were the operators of several Seminole Nation casinos who insisted that if the tracks were permitted to operate the Class III machines they also should be given the same opportunity.

Danny Adkins, vice president of the Hollywood Greyhound track, summed it up by saying, "All we’re asking a judge to do is to say we’re authorized to operate slot machines." In their lawsuit, the tracks noted that "they do not want to subject themselves to criminal prosecution or civil penalties by the defendant because of the uncertainty caused by the legislature’s failure to specifically act."

In a related matter, a group that opposes the expansion of gambling in Florida also filed suit asking the courts to rule that the tracks could not start offering slot machine gambling without an enabling law from the legislature.

One state observer said it was possible the suits could trigger a move toward having the lawmakers meet in a special session.