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Casino debate revives concerns over broken promises

The press conference called by the heads of South Florida’s horse and dog tracks in October 2004 had one goal in mind: to counter voter skepticism.

After nearly two decades of partially kept promises that the Florida Lottery would benefit education, the industry was struggling to persuade voters that if they supported a constitutional amendment to give the South Florida tracks slot machines, the revenues would go to enhance public schools. So the heads of the pari-mutuel industry presented a symbolic check for $500 million to Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, and announced it was their annual “guarantee.”

“There’s been a lot of cynicism and questioning of motives so, today, we’re putting our absolute guarantee on it,” said Jim Horne at the time. The former state education commissioner was the hired spokesman for constitutional Amendment 4, which would give voters the power to authorize slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Fast forward seven years. The pari-mutuels have their slot machines. The financial guarantee has never materialized. Story here.