02/28/2011 5:20PM

Hialeah files suit over casino effort


Hialeah Park has filed a lawsuit alleging that Calder Race Course and a nearby dog track have conspired against the track’s efforts to open a casino.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 11 in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, alleges that Calder, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., and Flagler Dog Track, in Hialeah, have conspired to use the legislative and judicial process to deny a slot-machine license to Hialeah.

A referendum approved by voters in 2008 gave Miami-Dade racetracks, including Calder and Flagler, the right to open casinos, but the law limited casino licenses to tracks that had run live race dates during each of the two previous years.

“The conspirators orchestrated the drafting of the slots amendment with this limitation for the express purpose of excluding Hialeah Park from being included as a facility authorized to operate slot machines,” the lawsuit alleges. Before opening late in 2009 for a Quarter Horse meet, Hialeah last conducted a Thoroughbred race meet in 2001. Its operating license was revoked in 2004.

Late last year, Calder and Flagler filed an action challenging Hialeah’s right to open a casino after a law was passed in 2010 designating the track as a candidate for a slot-machine license. The initial suit filed by the two tracks was thrown out, but the tracks have appealed that decision. Both Calder and Flagler operate casinos.

The Hialeah suit contends that the actions by Flagler and Calder are costing the track millions of dollars in potential revenue from slot machines, but it does not specify an amount being sought by Hialeah.

Julie Koenig-Loignon, a spokesperson for Churchill Downs Inc., said the company does not comment on pending litigation.