01/19/2005 1:00AM

Slots advance in Florida


The effort to legalize slot machines in south Florida cleared another hurdle Tuesday when the Broward County Commission voted 8-1 to put an amendment on the March 8 county-wide ballot that would legalize slots at parimutuel facilities in the county. A similar vote was scheduled to be taken by the Miami-Dade County Commission on Thursday.

A statewide measure, Proposition 4, passed on the November ballot, clearing the way for both Broward and Miami-Dade to hold individual elections giving voters the chance to approve racetrack video lottery terminals. The state's share of the revenue from the machines would go to education throughout the state.

Gulfstream Park is one of four parimutuel tracks in Broward. Calder Race Course is one of three located in Miami-Dade.

Proposition 4 passed by nearly a 2-1 margin in Broward during the November election, and as a result confidence is high the slots measure will pass in the March 8 vote. The vote was closer - 57 percent to 43 percent - in Dade, and it is expected that vigorous campaigns will be launched by both the local horsemen and a pro-video lottery group, Floridians for a Level Playing Field, to assure passage of the measure in Dade. That organization was funded by all seven Broward and Dade parimutuel facilities.

Video lottery legislation is expected to be written in the Florida legislature when it convenes in March. Officials at Calder have said if all went smoothly they could have slot machines in operation before the conclusion of the 2005 meeting.