For the first time in history, Florida gambling regulators have approved a request by the Magic City Casino, a greyhound racecourse in Miami, to do away with dog racing while still maintaining its slot machines and card games, according to the Sun Sentinel. In the past, the legal push for decoupling has been unsuccessful in allowing these tracks to end racing while keeping their casino licenses, but in this case the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation will allow Magic City to achieve virtually the same result as decoupling by replacing its greyhound races with jai alai matches.
Lawyer John Lockwood, representing Magic City Casino, referenced a 1980 Florida law which states that Miami-Dade and Broward pari-mutuels with the lowest handle for two years in a row can convert to a “summer jai alai permit,” and adds that if those pari-mutuels do not seek the conversion, other facilities may. Lockwood first sought the conversion in 2011, but it was denied; the 3rd District Court of Appeal later forced regulators to reconsider their decision.
On Wednesday, the Florida regulators reversed their original decision on the basis that that 1980 law allows Magic City to convert from dog racing to jai alai, provided that the jai alai matches take place at the same physical location as the current greyhound track. Some question over the wording of the law created arguments about the need for construction of a new fronton, or jai alai arena, but Wednesday's decision nullified those questions, stating that the fronton would be valid so long as it was built within the same location as the greyhound track. This allows the Magic City Casino operators a great deal of leeway in developing the large greyhound track's property, because a jai alai fronton is much smaller.
While this situation cannot be replicated by horse tracks, because they lack a summer jai alai permit option, and while the gambling regulators do not intend for the decision to be precedent-setting, other dog track operators in South Florida have definitely taken notice. The Hallandale Beach dog track's owners even tried to intervene in the Magic City decision, though that attempt was unsuccessful.
Read more at the Sun Sentinel.
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