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City of Gretna files brief in slots case, sides with local track

The north Florida city of Gretna is siding with the operators of a racetrack there, arguing that the facility is “entitled to a license to operate slot machines.”

The city filed a friend-of-the-court brief Thursday to the Florida Supreme Court in a challenge to a 1st District Court of Appeal decision that said various Florida dog and horse tracks can’t also offers customers slots.

That question before the justices is whether slot machines are allowed outside South Florida if local voters in a particular area approve of them. Gadsden County voters OK’d such a referendum in 2012.

“The issues in this case are of great public interest to all Floridians, but the disposition of the case will have a direct impact on the City of Gretna and its residents,” the brief said.

City officials have said adding slots will boost the local economy and create jobs at the site, which eventually will have a “convention hotel” and “restaurants and shops on or near the racetrack,” according to the brief.

Gretna, a town of about 1,400, is in Gadsden County 25 miles west of Tallahassee, the state capital. As of last year, about 77 percent of residents were black and nearly a quarter were below the federal poverty line.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians runs the track, called Creek Entertainment Gretna, which also has a poker room, according to its website.

The brief argues that the county slots referendum is already effective and doesn’t need further action by the Legislature to authorize it.

The Supreme Court took the case after the 1st District Court of Appeal ping-ponged on the question of whether the track could offer slot machines.

The court ruled in May that slot machines were allowed. Attorney General Pam Bondi asked for a rehearing.

The court then ruled 2-1 against the track; one of the judges who considered the case retired and was replaced by a different judge.

The same track had tried to run barrel racing for a pari-mutuel license that would have let them add slots and a card room.

A wide-ranging gambling bill that died last session would have allowed such racing, a rodeo-style event that Florida courts have previously ruled is not legal gambling.

The city is represented by Tallahassee attorney Philip J. Padovano, a retired 1st District Court of Appeal judge and author of “Florida Appellate Practice.”


Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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