Bondi Says No To Slots Outside South Florida

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) – Attorney General Pam Bondi has issued an opinion against slot machines at pari-mutuels around the state except for Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

The opinion issued Thursday said the state cannot issue a slot machine license at a barrel racing facility in the Panhandle town of Gretna even if Gadsden County voters approve them in a Jan. 31 referendum.

The attorney general wrote that a law allowing slots at pari-mutuel facilities through countywide referendums applies only to Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Bondi said that’s due to the plain language of the law as well as legislative intent expressed by its sponsor during floor debate in 2010.

Sen. Dennis Jones said the Legislature would have to pass another law allowing such a referendum outside of Miami-Dade or Broward.

Marc Dunbar, an attorney for a new Gadsden County pari-mutuel facility that is seeking slot machines, issued a statement disputing Bondi’s conclusion and indicated the issue will wind up in court.

“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,” Dunbar said. “Fortunately, the Supreme Court has ruled on many occasions that these advisory opinions have no binding effect 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.”

The opinion is the latest twist in a wide-ranging debate about the future of gambling in Florida. The highest-profile part of that debate centers on whether to allow resort casinos in the state, but it also includes questions about allowing slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities and whether to regulate or ban storefront Internet cafes that critics contend offer a form of gambling.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

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