Poarch Creeks win ruling for slot machines at Florida racetrack

A view of the Gretna Racing facility in Gretna, Florida. Photo from Facebook

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians might be able to offer slot machines at a commercial racetrack the tribe owns in neighboring Florida.

Some tracks already offer the machines. But the tribe's Gretna Racing facility was denied a license on the grounds that the Florida Legislature hadn't "enacted" a separate law authorizing slots in Gadsden County even though voters there approved them in a January 2012 referendum.

The 1st District Court of Appeal disagreed with that contention. A 2-1 decision said the word "enacted" failed to appear in a key law that lets counties decide whether they want slot machines.

"The Gadsden County Commission had clear, statutory authority to place the question on the ballot," Judge Robert T. Benton wrote for the majority.

The decision could affect efforts to negotiate a Class III gaming compact in Florida. The tribe has trust land in the state but Gov. Rick Scott (R) wants the federal government to confirm that it can be used for a casino before he will come to the table.

Separately, the tribe continues push for a Class III gaming compact in Alabama.The tribe has offered $250 million up front for some form of exclusivity.

A top lawmaker is pushing for a constitutional amendment to authorize Class III games at facilities across the state. The bill could be brought up during an upcoming special session but passage appears shaky due to divisions among Republican politicians.

The tribe does not support a statewide expansion and instead wants a compact that would guarantee some form of exclusivity in exchange for sharing revenues with the state.

Get the Story:
Court Backs Slot Machines At Poarch Creek Racetrack (The News Service of Florida 5/30)
ANALYSIS: Poarch Creek bailout offer is complicated (The Montgomery Advertiser 5/31)
Marsh: Lottery, gambling bill may wait for special session (The Montgomery Advertiser 5/31)

Florida 1st District Court of Appeal Decision:
Gretna Racing v. Department of Business and Professional Regulation Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (May 29, 2015)

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