Bondi, state regulators say no to slots at Gretna and raise doubts about Palm Beach
by Dara Kam | January 12th, 2012
State regulators won’t give a Panhandle horsetrack permission to have slot machines without legislative approval or changes to the state constitution based on an opinion issued by Attorney General Pam Bondi on Thursday.
Her non-binding opinion also puts in doubt a local bill Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach County Kennel Club are seeking to get slots approved at the dog track. A referendum on the slots will go before county voters in November.
Bondi issued the opinion in response to a question from state gambling regulators regarding Creek Entertainment Gretna racetrack in Gadsden County. Voters there and in Washington County will decide on Jan. 31 whether they want to allow their local pari-mutuels to offer slots, something the Gretna owners are banking on.
But Bondi said the referenda would only be valid if they are first authorized by the Legislature or in the state Constitution, and Department of Business and Professional Regulation officials said they would comply with her opinion.
Lawyers for PBKC and the Gretna track rejected Bondi’s opinion, accusing her of being biased against the slot machines and promising that the courts will ultimately decide on the issue.
“This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that an Attorney General has opined, for political issues, on a gambling issue outside of their authority,” attorney Marc Dunbar, one of the owners of the Gretna track, said in a statement. “Fortunately the Supreme Court has ruled on many occasions that these advisory opinions have no binding affect and more times than not are eventually rejected by Florida courts. I look forward to meeting her in court where law, not politics, will ultimately decide the issue.”