01/17/2003 12:00AM

Court rules against Hialeah


In response to a lawsuit filed by Gulfstream Park, a Florida circuit court judge has ruled that legislation protecting Hialeah Park's racing license last year violated the state's constitution.

The legislation allowed Hialeah to retain its license even though the track failed to run any of its scheduled live racing dates. Hialeah dropped plans for live racing last year after Gulfstream applied for live racing dates that overlapped Hialeah's traditional season.

District Court Judge L. Ralph Smith said that the legislation unfairly allowed Hialeah to sidestep rules that call for racetracks to be "fined or suspended" for failing to run their live racing dates, according to Dave Roberts, the director of the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which regulates racing in the state and was a defendant in the lawsuit.

Roberts said the division has not yet decided whether it will appeal the decision. The division has until Jan. 21 to file an appeal.

David Romanik, legal counsel for Hialeah, said Friday that the ruling may have no impact, because the judge ruled only that the division could seek a revocation of the track's license.

"I don't think there's anything Gulfstream can do to force the division to revoke our permit," Romanik said.

Hialeah filed an application for racing dates in 2003 running from Jan. 3 to April 13, but it has indicated that it has no intention of opening for live racing.