05/15/2004 12:00AM

Florida court advances slots

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The Florida Supreme Court has approved ballot language that would allow a public referendum on a constitutional amendment to legalize slot machines at tracks in south Florida.

The amendment, which has the support of racetracks, would allow voters in Dade and Broward counties to approve slot machines at any parimutuel facility, including horse tracks, dog tracks, and jai alai frontons, that has held live events in the past two years. Supporters would have to gather 500,000 signatures to get the amendment on the ballot.

Florida's legislature has balked at legalizing slot machines over the past five years, despite support from parimutuel facilities. Florida's voters have rejected expanded gambling on three occasions over the past 25 years.

Florida's racetracks are currently allowed to operate card rooms. The ballot measure would give the tracks the ability to install slot machines as long as some of the revenue went to education funding.

For the initiative to succeed, the constitutional amendment would first need to be approved by a majority of voters in the state. Then, voters in the counties that are directly affected would have to approve a separate referendum to allow slot machines at the racetracks.

Following both approvals, the legislature would need to draft rules governing the machines and the ways in which the revenue would be distributed.

If either of the county votes fail, then another referendum would not be able to be held for another two years, the amendment states.