Gretna Racing, LLC v. Dep't of Bus. & Prof'l Regulation, 1D14–3484.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Citation178 So.3d 15
Docket NumberNo. 1D14–3484.,1D14–3484.
Parties GRETNA RACING, LLC, Appellant, v. DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL REGULATION, Division of Pari–Mutuel Wagering, Appellee.
Decision Date02 October 2015

178 So.3d 15


No. 1D14–3484.

District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District.

Oct. 2, 2015.

178 So.3d 16

Marc W. Dunbar, Tallahassee and David S. Romanik of David S. Romanik, P.A., Oxford, for Appellant.

David J. Weiss of Ausley & McMullen, P.A., Tallahassee, for Amicus Curiae Gadsden County, Florida in support of Appellant.

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Allen Winsor, Solicitor General, Adam S. Tanenbaum, Chief Deputy Solicitor General, and Jonathan A. Glogau, Chief, Complex Litigation, Tallahassee, for Appellee.



Gadsden County, where the pari-mutuel facilities of Gretna Racing, LLC., are located, held a countywide non-binding vote in January 2012, the result of which showed that the sentiments of a majority of its electorate favor slot machines at those facilities. Based upon that vote, Gretna Racing now seeks a license for slot machines. Via local referenda authorized by a 2004 state constitutional amendment, however, slot machines were approved and are currently permitted in only two Florida counties: Miami–Dade and Broward. Art. X, § 23, Fla. Const. The question in this statutory interpretation case is whether the Legislature intended to allow expansion of slot machines via local referendum into all other Florida counties in like manner through a 2009 enactment. See Ch. 2009–170, Laws of Florida, § 19 (amending section 551.102(4), Fla. Stat.). Because the Gadsden County vote was not an authorized "referendum," amounting to only a non-binding vote of the electorate, it has no binding legal effect. Moreover, nothing in the language, structure, or history of slot machine legislation, including section 551.102(4), Florida Statutes, provides authorization for the holding of slot machine referenda in counties other than Miami–Dade and Broward counties. The administrative order denying issuance of a slot

178 So.3d 17

machine license to Gretna Racing is upheld.1


A. The 1885 Constitution

Florida has no history or tradition of allowing slot machines within its borders. To the contrary, other than a very brief period in the State's history—a depression era lacuna from about 1935 to 1937 when the state legislature and the state supreme court were briefly in synch over their legality in highly limited circumstances—slot machines have been prohibited as unlawful lotteries from statehood until the recent passage of a constitutional amendment in 2004 authorizing referenda in Miami–Dade and Broward Counties to permit their usage (more on that later).

The 1885 Constitution prohibited lotteries. Art. III, § 23 (1885) ("Lotteries are hereby prohibited in this State."). As mechanical slot machines developed shortly before the turn of the century, they were generally considered within this prohibition. Because the 1885 Constitution did not define the scope of what constituted a lottery, the Legislature had a degree of flexibility in determining its definitional parameters, which it exercised by enacting the State's first slot machine statute in 1935, allowing for their use. By doing so, the Florida Supreme Court was put in the position of deciding whether slot machines were impermissible under the state constitution's anti-lottery provision, resulting in a judicial decision that altered the three-part lottery test that had prevailed since shortly after the 1885 Constitution was enacted (a lottery = prize + chance + consideration). In an adroit ruling, the supreme court added a fourth part to the test—widespread operation—which allowed the use of slot machines unless they became too prevalent. That decision, Lee v. City of Miami, 121 Fla. 93, 163 So. 486 (1935), upheld the facial validity of a statute allowing the use of specified slot machine-like devices, but held that their widespread use might amount to an impermissible lottery under the constitutional prohibition. Id. at 490 ("It may be that some of [the coin-operating vending machines], or possibly all of them in their operation, will become [illegal lotteries]; but we leave that question to be determined when a specific case arises."); see also Hardison v. Coleman, 121 Fla. 892, 164 So. 520, 524 (1935) (lotteries include "such gambling devices or methods which because of their wide or extensive operation a whole community or country comes within its contaminating influence"). Thus, as of 1935, a limited class of slot machines were deemed permissible, and were authorized by legislative act, so long as their use was not widespread or extensive across a community. Slot machines, like the proverbial camel's nose under the tent, rapidly proliferated but soon fell in disfavor due to their widespread use and deleterious effects.2 As one commentator has noted:

178 So.3d 18
When the Florida Supreme Court decided Lee and Hardison in 1935, it must have viewed slot machines as novelties and standalone devices, like Mr. Hardison's slot machine, as opposed to paper lottery tickets, which could be sold and distributed all over a community. Things did not unfold in the next two years in the way the Florida Supreme Court apparently expected in 1935. In 1937, the Florida comptroller, the same J.M. Lee who had prevailed in Lee, prepared a document for Florida Governor Fred Cone estimating there to be 10,000 slot machines with total yearly play of $52 million in Florida. Even children were allowed to gamble on these machines. Slot machines in their actual operation had collectively turned out to be widespread and lotteries under Lee' s criteria, but the Florida Supreme Court did not have a case to revisit the issue directly. Instead, the legislature and Governor Cone took matters into their own hands by repealing the 1935 slot machine statute in 1937. The vote for repeal in the legislature was overwhelming. This repeal statute, which also banned slot machines, was authored and vigorously championed by a young representative and future Florida governor named LeRoy Collins, who called the two-year experience with slot machines "a dose of moral poison."

David G. Shields, Slot Machines in Florida? Wait A Minute, Fla. B.J., Sept./ Oct. 2013, at 12 (footnotes omitted). In two years, a complete turn of the wheel had occurred; slot machines were prohibited once again. By 1939, the three-part test was back in force; the "widespread operation" part that the court temporarily relied upon to legitimize slot machines was now absent. See Little River Theatre Corp. v. State ex rel. Hodge, 135 Fla. 854, 185 So. 855, 861 (1939) ("The authorities are in accord that a lottery has three elements; first, a prize; second, an award by chance; and, third, a consideration."). And slot machines were again relegated to nothing more than a societal menace. Pasternack v. Bennett, 138 Fla. 663, 190 So. 56, 57 (1939) ("[I]t is definitely settled in this jurisdiction that those devices commonly known as slot machines are gambling devices; that the use and operation of them has a baneful influence on the persons who indulge in playing them and that they constitute such a menace to public welfare and public morals as to be subject to the police power of the State to regulate, control, prohibit or destroy them.").

B. The 1968 Constitution

Over three decades passed before the issue of lotteries arose again. In adopting a new state constitution, the people of the State of Florida included an anti-lottery provision that drew upon the 1885 Constitution's ban of all lotteries with the limitation that certain existing types of pari-mutuel pools would be allowed to continue. The new anti-lottery provision stated: "Lotteries, other than the types of pari-mutuel pools authorized by law as of the effective date of this constitution, are hereby prohibited in this state." Art. X, § 7, Fla. Const. (1968). In essence, the 1968 constitutional revision cemented in place the statewide ban on all types of lotteries (which would include slot machines used on a widespread basis), allowing only the limited types of gaming that then existed by law.

This point was made in a case out of Jacksonville, Florida, in which the legality of bingo was questioned under the new constitution. By close vote, the Florida

178 So.3d 19

Supreme Court held that because bingo was legislatively authorized at the time of article X, section 7's enactment, it was grandfathered in as a permissible lottery.

Obviously, the makers of our 1968 Constitution recognized horse racing as a type of lottery and a 'pari-mutuel pool' but also intended to include in its sanction those other lotteries then legally functioning; namely, dog racing, jai alai and bingo. All other lotteries including bolito, cuba, slot machines, etc., were prohibited.

Greater Loretta Imp. Ass'n v. State ex rel. Boone, 234 So.2d 665, 671–72 (Fla.1970) (emphasis added). As the highlighted language makes evident, the supreme court—consistent with article X, section 7's clear language—drew a bright line: existing "lotteries" such as pari-mutuel pools for dog racing, jai alai and bingo survived; all other "lotteries" including "slot machines" were...

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