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Quiet permit gives Flagler dog track owners chance for another casino

Miami could be home to South Florida’s ninth slots-and-poker casino, long before any destination gambling resort breaks ground, under a permit quietly sought by the owners of Flagler Dog Track and Magic City Casino and approved by state regulators.

Flagler attorney John Lockwood uncovered a never-used loophole in a 30-year-old pari-mutuel law and used it to persuade the Florida Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering to give West Flagler Associates a permit to operate summer jai-alai — and potentially slot machines. The company owns Magic City Casino, and would operate its new facility as Magic City Jai Alai.

The fresh permit comes loaded with advantages that legislators never imagined in 1980, when the law was written. For starters, it comes with an opportunity to build a new jai-alai fronton and poker room anywhere in Miami-Dade County, including downtown Miami or Miami Beach.

It also comes with the chance to operate slot machines — the result of a 2009 law that opened the door for Hialeah Racetrack to operate slots after Miami-Dade voters authorized them for three other pari-mutuels in the county. If West Flagler decided to pursue the lucrative Las Vegas-style slot machines, jai-alai would become a sideline.

“This permit doesn’t change the gaming debate because West Flagler hasn’t decided what its intentions are with the permit,” Lockwood told the Herald/Times on Monday. “We are trying to decide what makes sense for the client.” More here.