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Appeals Court Upholds Slot Machines Anywhere In Fla.

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(Source: AP)

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami.com) – A Florida appeals court has upheld a decision that gives the Florida Legislature the authority to put slot machines anywhere in the state of Florida.

The decision will have an immediate impact on the city of Hialeah. The appellate court decision has now cleared the way for the Hialeah race track to install slot machines.

Competitors argued that Hialeah didn’t qualify for slot machines under a state constitutional amendment that allowed slot machines at certain horse, dog tracks, jai alai frontons in Miami-Dade and Broward counties if approved through local referendums.

The trial court decision said that amendment didn’t prevent the Legislature from approving additional slot machines anywhere.

The decision also affects the some of the world’s largest gaming companies already making big plans in South Florida.

Malaysia-based Genting Group, which recently unveiled their multi-million dollar plans for an entertainment complex on The Miami Herald site, released this statement to CBS4 News Thursday afternoon:

Today’s appellate court ruling affirms that Florida’s legislature and Governor are constitutionally empowered to enact gaming reform that includes the issuance of licenses for highly regulated destination resorts in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. The court has cleared the way for this legislation, and Genting is hopeful that the legislature will act in the best interests of the Florida economy in the upcoming session. Destination Resorts will result in billions of dollars of new investment in Florida, millions in new tax revenue that will yield positive impacts statewide, and as many as 100,000 new jobs.”

The Genting Group purchased the land on Biscayne Bay for $236 million in June. The group had lobbied hard for the law to be changed to allow gaming in the planned 10 million square foot resort. They expect to begin construction on the project in 2012.

Even powerhouse Vegas casino companies have expressed interest in the possibility of South Florida gaming.

According to CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald, the Sands and Wynn Resorts met with several property owners, including the owners of the Miami World Center property in the West Park neighborhood.

The appeals court decision is expected to be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, but if it stands, South Florida’s largest casino operator The Seminole Tribe has made it very clear they want to bid on one of the full casino licenses in Miami-Dade or Broward County.

The Tribe says they have already made the $1 billion payment in the first five years of the 30 year gambling compact, and could pay more in the future. The state could lose out on the remaining money if it decides to allow other companies to compete for gaming.

“If the legislature wants to expand gaming, what makes the most sense is for them to talk to the tribe first,’’ Richard said. “The tribe’s not limited to its reservations. It can build a casino anywhere. If they negotiate with the tribe, they don’t have to give up the money they just make a deal with them.”

Not everything thinks it is such a good idea.

“The camel sticks his nose in first, then the toe, then the whole body,” explains John Rivera, President of the Police Benevolent Association, who says he is concerned about the potential cost of gaming.

“We are having such an increase in homicides today,” said Rivera. “Just keeping up with them, our plate is more than full, now to add onto that?”

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press  and CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)

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