05/24/2005 11:00PM

Four sites sue to get slots


Four parimutuel facilities in Florida's Broward County, including Gulfstream Park, have sued the state in order to obtain approval to install slot machines, alleging that the failure of the state legislature to draft rules governing the machines should not deny the tracks the ability to take slot-machine bets.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Broward County Circuit Court, asks the court to issue a declaratory judgment affirming the legality of racetrack slot machines and also seeks to prevent the state from enforcing current laws prohibiting the transportation and operation of slot machines. The sites that filed suit are Gulfstream, Hollywood Greyhound Park, the harness track Pompano Park, and the Dania Jai Alai fronton.

The state legislature adjourned for the year on May 5 without approving any rules governing slot-machine gambling at racetracks. Voters in Broward County passed a referendum earlier this year that legalized slots at tracks and that gave the legislature until July 1 to draft rules defining what machines could be used and how revenue would be divided.

In the suit, the tracks argue that because the legislature failed to act, the referendum is "self-executing."

"The failure of the Legislature to specifically act violates the will of the people of the state of Florida . . . and violates the will of the people of Broward County," the lawsuit states.

JoAnn Carrin, a spokeswoman for Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, said the attorney general's office had received the lawsuit Wednesday morning, although it is unclear if Crist's office would be required to defend the state or if that would fall to another state agency.

The referendum legalizing slots was opposed by Gov. Jeb Bush, religious groups, and Native American tribes, many of which operate casinos in Florida. The House and Senate both passed slots bills before adjourning, but the bills defined slot machines differently and subjected the gambling revenues to different tax rates. The bills were not reconciled before the houses adjourned.

Officials for Gulfstream and attorneys representing the facilities referred comment to Dan Adkins, vice president of Hollywood Greyhound Park, who did not return phone calls.

Separately on Tuesday, gambling opponents filed a suit seeking to block the racetracks from installing slots without the enabling legislation.