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Pam Bondi granted more time to prep for slot machine case

Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s office is getting more time to prepare legal arguments in a case over whether certain Florida dog and horse tracks can offer slot machines to guests.

The Florida Supreme Court granted the request Wednesday, giving her lawyers another month to turn in their brief.

Bondi’s office, specifically Solicitor General Allen Winsor, is representing the Florida Department Of Business And Professional Regulation, which regulates the state’s pari-mutuel facilities.

Along with dealing with some staff turnover, his filing also said his team “has numerous case assignments with pressing deadlines,” including a slew of high-profile cases involving the state’s workers’ compensation system, abortion and satellite TV taxation.

“The requested extension would not prejudice any party,” the filing said. “Oral argument has not yet been set, and there has been no request for — and no need for — expedited treatment.”

The request asked for an extension to March 4, but the court instead gave them till Feb. 11.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which runs the racetrack in Gretna, about 25 miles west of Tallahassee, is bringing the case.

The question before the court essentially 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.

Gretna city officials have said adding slots will boost the local economy and create jobs at the track site, which eventually will have a “convention hotel” and “restaurants and shops on or near the racetrack,” according to their brief. Nearly a quarter of the town of about 1,400 is below the federal poverty line, census records show.

The Supreme Court case comes after the 1st District Court of Appeal ping-ponged on the question, first ruling that slot machines were allowed because Gadsden County voters had approved a referendum authorizing them. Bondi asked for a rehearing, and the court then ruled 2-1 against the Gretna track.

One reason the outcome was different is because one of the judges who considered the case retired and was replaced by a different judge.

But, as the request for review says, “all four judges agreed that the question passed upon in both decisions is a question of great statewide importance and both decisions certified that question to the Supreme Court of Florida.”

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.

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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