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Hialeah wins court ruling, court says slots okay -- helps casino ventures

In a huge victory for Hialeah Racetrack and a promising omen for the resort casinos, the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee Thursday affirmed a lower court decision and said that the law passed by the legislature to allow Hialeah Racetrack to offer slot machines was constitutional.

The short seven-page ruling by Judge Marguerite H. Davis rejected the arguments of Flagler Gaming Centers and Calder Race Course who argued that when voters approved slot machines in Miami Dade and Broward they intended to limit the number of permits to the seven parimutuels that were currently operating.

The court rejected that argument, saying "the Legislature has broad discretion in regulating and controlling pari-mutuel wagering and gambling under its police powers." Davis wrote that the constitutional amendment approved by voters "provides no indication that Florida voters intended to forever prohibit the Legislature from exercising its authority to expand slot machine gaming beyond those facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties meeting the specified criteria.

"Nor is there any indication that Florida voters intended to grant the seven entities who met the criteria a constitutionally-protect monopoly over slot machine gaming in the state."

The ruling is likely to be hailed by the operators of resort casinos who are asking the Legislature to open the door to Las Vegas style games in South Florida. An adverse ruling could have forced them to seek a constitutional amendment before getting legislative approval.

Here's the ruling: Download Hialeah ruling