Pinellas County Commission won’t put slots on the ballot

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Parimutuels, jai alai matches and “racinos” are all looking to supplement revenue with lucrative poker card rooms and slot machines.

As non-racing operations in Miami-Dade and Broward County parimutuels became more profitable, many of the venues promoted legislation to eliminate minimum race requirements in order to operate card rooms or slots.

In 2014, they met with little success, reports LobbyTools.

On Aug. 4, the Pinellas County Commission voted 6-1 to deny an application by Derby Lane Vice President Jack Winning to include a referendum on November’s ballot on legalizing slot machines at dog tracks.

Winning’s proposed referendum would have been non-binding, at least until Tallahassee lawmakers overhaul the state’s gambling laws — possibly by the 2015 legislative session. That was one only one of the commissioner’s concerns. They also balked at the timing of the referendum, saying it was coming too close to the Aug. 19 deadline for submitting items to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections for inclusion on November’s ballot.

Commissioners did agree to discuss adding the legalization of slots at parimutuels to the county’s annual legislative agenda, the list of issues submitted to lobbyists to bring to state lawmakers.

Legislators expect, once again, to take up the issue, in light of the impending sunset of the Seminole Gaming Compact, an agreement giving the tribe a monopoly on casino games like blackjack and baccarat, as well as offering slot machines at four casinos outside of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.

Winning made the argument that slot machines were necessary for Derby Lane to remain competitive with Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

“I’d hate to get to the point where I would have to close the doors and send 500 employees out,” Winning told commissioners.

Six counties passed referendums in 2012 allowing slot machines in pari-mutuels but stopped by a legal opinion (also non-binding) from Attorney General Pam Bondi cautioning that the addition of slots must be approved by the Legislature to become valid. Since then, no requests for slot machines (outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, where they are already allowed) have been received by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.