Supreme Court decision allows satellite card rooms for dog tracks

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On Wednesday, the Florida Supreme Court overturned an appeals court decision by ruling least two greyhound tracks can operate card rooms without offering live racing.

The ruling allows greyhound permit holders, including one in Palm Beach County, to open satellite card rooms without requiring live racing, as long as it meets certain conditions. Card rooms are now legal at a Palm Beach dog track and the Daytona Beach Kennel Club.

The Sun-Sentinel reports that justices, in reversing the 1st District Court of Appeal ruling, determined the state law was so narrowly written that it applied to only two facilities. That made it a “special” act, and therefore unconstitutional.

Current law gives jai alai permit holders the ability to convert in a county where the state “has issued only two pari-mutuel permits” only if jai alai permits have not previously converted from another class of license. In addition, jai alai games must not have performed there for a minimum of 10 years.

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, in his 30-page opinion, agreed with Barry Richard, the attorney representing the Palm Beach greyhound track, who argued lower court mistakenly interpreted the words “only” and “has issued” when reading the statute. Labarga wrote that there is “a reasonable possibility that [the law] could apply to 10 of the 11 jai alai permits in the state.”

The statute has been in effect since 2010 as part of a comprehensive gambling bill passed in 2009 by the Legislature, which authorized the gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe. Labarga wrote that the same law gives regulators a option when considering permit applications “with the aim of maximizing revenue generation and limiting competition within certain geographical areas.”

DeBary Real Estate Holdings Inc. filed the challenge. Although DeBary owns a quarter-horse permit in Volusia County, the company has not opened a facility. With its converted permit, Daytona Beach Kennel Club plans to open a satellite poker room in West Volusia.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.