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Supreme Court rejects Bob Graham’s bid to argue in gambling case

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The Florida Supreme Court Friday denied a request from former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham to participate in oral argument in a case on expanding slot machines in the state.

Graham has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the matter brought by Gretna Racing, the Gadsden County track seeking to add slot machines.

Graham, a Democrat who was governor 1979-87 and U.S. senator 1987-2005, opposes the move. He says slots are illegal “lotteries” banned by the state constitution unless expressly permitted by law.

The court also on Friday allowed in a friend-of-the-court brief from No Casinos, an anti-gambling expansion group. Gretna Racing’s attorneys had asked for that brief to be tossed out.

“We are pleased that the Court denied the motion of gambling interests who wanted to silence the arguments laid out in our brief,” said No Casinos President John Sowinski in a prepared statement. “Now the Court will get a full picture of this critical issue.

“This case is about much more than interpreting a statute,” he said. “This case is about adhering to a principle thoughtfully and deliberately placed in Florida’s constitution to give the people of our state the ultimate authority to decide whether or not to expand gambling in Florida.”

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which operates the Gretna track, argues it should be allowed to offer slot machines because voters approved them in a local referendum in 2012.

A favorable ruling by the court could expand slot machines to all six counties where voters passed slots referendums: Brevard, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, and Washington.

The case is Gretna Racing v. Florida Department 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 jim@floridapolitics.com.

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