In Florida Gaming Centers, Inc. v. Fla. Dep’t of Bus, and Prof. Reg., Case No. 1D10-6780 (Fla. 1st DCA Oct. 6, 2011), the court determined that the Legislature’s 2009 amendment to section 551.102(4), Florida Statutes, enabling machine gaming in Florida beyond the scope of Article X, Section 23 to the Florida Constitution, was constitutional. As background, on November 2, 2004, Florida voters approved a ballot initiative adding Article X, section 23 to the Florida Constitution, which authorized the governing bodies of Miami-Date and Broward Counties to hold countywide referendums in their respective counties on whether to authorize slot machines within existing, licensed pari-mutuel facilities (thoroughbred and harness racing, greyhound racing and jai-alai). In 2009, the Legislature amended the definition of “eligible facility” in section 551.102(4), Florida Statutes, allowing slot machine gaming at certain pari-mutuel facilities not authorized by Article X, Section 23 to the Florida Constitution.
When the holders of pari-mutuel wagering permits in Miami-Dade County filed suit for a declaratory judgment that this statutory amendment was unconstitutional, the court disagreed that the purpose of Article X, section 23 was to limit slot machine gaming in Florida to certain facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. The court noted that the Legislature has broad discretion in regulating and controlling pari-mutuel wagering and gambling under its police powers. It stated that the only thing that Article X, section 23 limited was the Legislature’s authority to prohibit slot machine gaming in certain facilities in the two counties. The court concluded that Article X, section 23 provided no indication that Florida voters intended to forever prohibit the Legislature from exercising its authority to expand slot machine gaming beyond those facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Furthermore, the court found no indication that the Florida voters intended to grant the seven entities who met the criteria a constitutionally-protected monopoly over slot machine gaming in the state.