North Florida Lawmaker Slot Machine Referendum Push Faces Long Odds
Posted on: January 4, 2018, 02:00h.
Last updated on: January 4, 2018, 01:21h.
One Florida state legislator believes slot machines can be placed in one of his district’s racetracks, and introduced a bill proposing such on Wednesday. Despite a state Supreme Court decision and Republican opposition, Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-District 8) wants voters to decide on the issue and has filed HB 111, seeking a countywide referendum on the issue.
Alexander’s district of Gadsen County would benefit from that voter approval. Located in the panhandle of the state, with a population of approximately 46,000 people, the mostly rural area is 30 miles west of the state capital of Tallahassee.
In his proposed bill, the legislator cites the area’s “ … economic development challenges,” noting that the bill could be very beneficial financially to the county.
“Gadsden County is uniquely positioned in North Florida to take advantage of … slot machine gaming and development in and around the interstate exit located within the City of Gretna near the parimutuel quarter horse facility,” the bill states.
Hard Road to Passage
The legislation is by no means a shoo-in and faces a slew of opponents. GOP members of the House have said they are not in favor of expanding gambling in the Sunshine State. Without Republican support, the bill will most likely falter.
Florida’s Supreme Court has also set roadblocks against the possibility of any further slot machines in the state. In an appeal filed by the city of Gretna, the high court ruled in May that they would not be allowed to add the devices. In a 20-page decision, the justices said even though the city had a referendum in 2012, it would not be allowed to proceed against state law.
But the third opponent may be the most powerful. The Seminole Tribe has a compact with the state that allows the Nation exclusivity in regards to any machines in Florida. If that agreement is breached, the tribe can legally withhold revenue funds to the state that could amount to millions of dollars per month.
The sovereign nation has been active in protecting its interests in regards to gambling and has numerous victories to show for its efforts. The biggest was in 2016 when a federal court in Tallahassee ruled the state had violated the compact and it triggered a provision that extended the deal until 2030.
The tribe was also able to help shoot down two gambling bills it viewed as unfavorable, watching it fail to pass in March of last year.
Nonetheless, factions keep testing the Seminoles, and the tribe is not shy about aggressively protecting its gaming interests. In December, the nation filed a lawsuit against 11 Jacksonville internet cafes and 15 people they said were operating slot and video machines across the city.
The group also went after state legislators who were sponsoring bills that would make Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) legal in the state. The tribe contends that’s also a violation of its 2010 agreement with Florida.
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