Court paves way for Miami casino-resorts

With billions of dollars in casino-resort development set to enter Miami, a Florida appeals court ruled on Thursday that state legislators do not need to hold a referendum to expand gambling.

The case came before the court as a bill is being prepared in the Florida state legislature to allow licenses for three casino-resorts to be granted without a voter referendum on the matter.

The case came before the First District Court of Appeals after Flagler Gaming Centers and Calder Race Course sued Hialeah Racetrack for installing slot machines, arguing that two earlier referendums to allow slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties limited the amount of permits for slot machines to the number of current operators.

However, First District Court of Appeals Judge Marguerite Davis affirmed a lower court decision that the law passed by the state legislature to allow Hialeah to install the slot machines was constitutional.

Had the court ruled otherwise, companies like The Genting Group, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, may have had to seek an amendment to the state constitution to be able to operate gaming activities in Florida.

Florida state legislators are set to vote on a bill that would allow three casino-resorts to be built in the Miami area, with stipulations that a minimum of US$2 billion be invested in each property and that gaming activities be segregated from the rest of the resort and restricted to no more than 10% of the property’s total area. The bill would also set a gambling operation tax of 10% of net revenues.