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Court upholds Hialeah's slot machines, last chance blow to competitors

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday quietly upheld a lower court ruling allowing Hialeah Racetrack to offer slot machines.

The court dismissed appeals by Calder Race Course, West Flagler Associates with owns Magic City Casino and Florida Gaming Centers, which owns Miami Jai Alai, 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 notice came quietly Friday on a a day otherwise focused on the court's ruling on the Legislature's redistricting maps. The ruling validates a decision by the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee last November which affirmed a lower court decision and said that the law passed by the legislature to allow Hialeah Racetrack to offer slot machines was constitutional.

It also puts an end to the years' long appeal by the racetrack's local competitors who wanted to prevent them from getting the slot machines. The state issued a slots license to the track in 2010 but owner John Brunetti has not installed them.

The appeals court said "the Legislature has broad discretion in regulating and controlling pari-mutuel wagering and gambling under its police powers." Judge  Judge Marguerite H. 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.