State Supreme Court rules voters cannot authorize slot machines

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By: Mike Vasilinda; Capitol News Service
May 18, 2017

Slot machine graphic via MGN.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday voters cannot authorize slot machines, with the exception of two South Florida counties. The ruling means that current votes authorizing slots in eight counties are invalid.

In 2012, Gadsden County became the first county to authorize a vote to legalize slots. Seven other counties followed suit, but each was denied a permit by the state.

In June of 2016, the case went to the State Supreme Court, and the state upheld its decision.

“The legislature did not intend to legalize slot machines statewide when it changed the eligible facility definition,” said Solicitor General Jonathan Williams in 2016.

But slots backers said lawmakers intentionally created a loophole.

“First, you have to get a county commission to authorize a referendum, that’s what that language means. Second, you have to pass the referendum,” said Marc Dunbar of Creek Entertainment.

After nearly a year, the Supreme Court says the votes were not legally binding and says the law limits licenses to only Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

Before the ruling, the prospect of more slots was one of the reasons anti-gambling advocates began circulating petitions to ban all future gambling expansion without voter approval. That petition is still something lawmakers have to deal with.

No Casinos’ John Sowinski calls the ruling a partial victory, but says they will continue to push for a constitutional amendment.

“We’ve got almost 200,000 signatures of the million plus we need in order to put it on the ballot. We’re well on track so voters can decide this issue once and for all.”

If the initiative gets on the 2018 ballot, voters will have the final say one way or the other.

Slots supporters issued a statement saying they were disappointed and were considering their next move.

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