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Bock, bock: Gambling opponents call racetrack’s lawyers chickens

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Lawyers for Gretna Racing, the Gadsden County track seeking to add slot machines, this week asked the Florida Supreme Court to toss out former Gov. Bob Graham‘s friend-of-the-court brief in their case, saying he “has no right to raise a new issue from his position as a nonparty.”

Graham’s brief opposes the operators of the racetrack; they argue they should be allowed to offer slot machines because voters approved them in a local referendum in 2012.

The brief said slots are essentially “lotteries,” and lotteries, unless expressly permitted, are otherwise banned by the state constitution. Graham, a Democrat, served as governor 1979-87 and U.S. senator 1987-2005.

In their response, the track’s lawyers objected, saying the issue has been asked and answered, quoting a 2004 state Supreme Court decision.

“We have long since settled the question … of whether certain legislatively described gambling machines, such as slot machines, constituted lotteries prohibited by the state constitution,” the court said. “We concluded they did not.”

The lawyers also moved to strike a brief from No Casinos, the anti-gambling expansion organization in Orlando.

That group struck back Wednesday, saying in a statement the opposing attorneys must feel “that they may not be able to successfully argue the constitutionality of slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.”

“The fact that they are afraid to make the case that what they want is permissible under Florida’s constitution speaks volumes,” said John Sowinski, No Casinos’ president.

“ … This case strikes at the heart of a fundamental principle that was thoughtfully and deliberately placed into Florida’s constitution — that the people of Florida have the constitutional right to determine whether or not certain forms of gambling shall be allowed in our state.”

The case is Gretna Racing v. Florida Dep’t of Business and Professional Regulation, No. SC15-1929.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at

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