08/08/2006 11:00PM

Anti-slots lawsuit reinstated

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A court of appeals in Florida has reinstated a lawsuit challenging the validity of a constitutional amendment allowing for slot machines in the state, but the development is not expected to immediately affect plans to install the machines at Gulfstream Park.

The First District Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States and GREY2K USA, a group opposed to greyhound racing. The suit alleges that backers of a constitutional amendment allowing voters to approve slots collected fraudulent signatures on a petition to get the amendment on the 2004 ballot.

The amendment passed by a narrow margin, 51 percent to 49 percent, and in March 2005 voters in Broward County passed a referendum allowing slot machines at four parimutuel facilities in the county, including Gulfstream Park.

The lawsuit was initially thrown out in the state's Circuit Court because the judge ruled that the 2005 referendum invalidated the challenge.

Paul Miccuci, the president of Gulfstream Park, which is closed for racing, did not return a phone call on Wednesday. The track is expected to open a slot-machine facility on the grounds of the racetrack by October.

Kent Stirling, the executive director of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said Wednesday that the reinstatement of the lawsuit will not delay Gulfstream's plans to operate the machines.

"We've been told that this won't get to the Supreme Court for at least two years," Stirling said. "By then we'll have the slots up and running and the state will be receiving millions of dollars, so I can't believe it's going to hold up."