Gretna Gaming Expansion

By: Whitney Ray; The News Service of Florida Email
By: Whitney Ray; The News Service of Florida Email

Gretna, FL -- November 16, 2011 --

A prime example of why sponsors of a resort-casino bill want a Department of Gaming was on display today near the state capital. The small city of Gretna is showing off its new barrel racing arena. Bets on races will begin next month, poker will soon follow, and eventually, if voters approve, slots. Supporters of a resort-casino bill say it’s the type of gaming the state doesn’t need.

A new barrel racing track 30 miles west of the state capital is almost ready for action. A test run was held Wednesday. Next month the betting begins.

When the horses aren’t sprinting around barrels, people can play poker. And if voters approve in January, Creek Entertainment Gretna will add 2-thousand slot machines.

“We will work toward the plans that we have been presenting which show a very big build out and will be a resort destination here at I10 and Gretna,” said Jay Dorris, President of PCI Gaming Authority.

With a yes vote Gretna would have more slots than people. The town’s mayor says gaming will bring a hundred jobs to his poverty stricken community.

President and CEO of PCI Gaming Authority James Dorris, 11-time World Champion Barrel Racer Charmayne James, and Gretna Mayor Clarence Jackson speak to reporters at the future site of the new pari-mutuel Creek Entertainment Gretna facility in Gadsden County on Wednesday. The site will also feature more than 20 poker tables and, if James Dorris gets his way, slot machines.

“I’m sure that we will have some opposition, but the main thing for people around here is, they are looking for jobs,” said Clarence Jackson, Gretna Mayor.

But this is exactly the type of gaming expansion sponsors of a resort casino bill say they don’t want. They say it preys on locals and doesn’t encourage the type of international tourism a mega resort casino would attract.

They want to open the doors to three Vegas-style casinos, and create a department to keep smaller gaming businesses out.

“One more operation is going to open up that is going to be predatory gaming. It’s going to work with the citizens of the state. It’s going to be regional only and it’s not going to bring in the international tourist,” said Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff.

The bill’s sponsors say in the long run the legislation would lead to a gaming reduction, but before the bill is voted on, people in Gretna will already be picking a horse and playing the odds.

Besides the expansion in Gretna, several other counties including Palm Beach are considering adding slot machines.

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