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First District Court rules in favor of Gretna slots, Gadsden voters, against Pam Bondi

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On Friday afternoon, Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal issued a sweeping 50-page ruling overturning a decision by Attorney General Pam Bondi that stood between Creek Entertainment and new slot machines licenses at their parimutuel facility in the city of Gretna, approved by Gadsden County voters in a 2012 referendum.

The ruling repudiated the basis of the state’s opposition to the new slots led by Bondi, who instructed state regulators with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to deny the new licenses and went to court to enforce that denial.

The 1st DCA–housed in the so-called “Florida Taj Mahal” of 2010 gubernatorial campaign lore, in Tallahassee’s Southwood neighborhood–rejected the attorney general’s argument, which turned on whether or not the Gretna racetrack was an “eligible facility” under state law.

Jonathan Glogau, an attorney in Bondi’s office, had argued before the court that Gretna Gaming did not meet the definition of an “eligible facility” under state statute because the referendum took place after a 2009 amendment to state statutes took effect and so the 2012 county-wide vote — in which more than 62 percent of voters said ‘Yes’ to the approval of a new slot machines license for the facility — was “non-binding,” and could not be enforced.

The court jettisoned that logic, siding with Gadsden advocates and attorney Marc Dunbar, who argued earlier this month that Bondi’s office had willfully misinterpreted the state statute.

As reported first by the AP, the ruling could apply to other facilities in Lee, Brevard and Palm Beach counties, putting newfound pressure on the Legislature to act on either a state Rep. Dana Young-style gaming package or a renewed table-games pact with the Seminole Indians.

The case may next go before the Florida Supreme Court, should it accede to the will of the 1st DCA, who asked them to take it up.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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