The gist for gamblers: Odds are good you'll be playing poker in Florida City.
The gist for those who follow Florida's gambling reality show: This one feels a little different, like it will happen. Not like a casino-hotel at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, nor a Genting-Gulfstream casino in Miami.
The 1st Florida District Court of Appeals released a 10-page opinion Tuesday, overturning a ruling by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering that West Flagler Associates, which owns Magic City Casino in Miami, could not have an additional permit.
On what grounds did they apply for a permit, you ask, dear reader? Well, it was based on a 1980 law that stated pari-mutuels in a county with five or more horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons could receive an additional jai-alai permit to the lowest-performing of the five. The PMW said the law was written to allow an additional permit every two years; the court on Tuesday ruled agreed with West Flagler's argument that it be for every year. But hell, that 1980 law was pre-lottery in Florida, and decades before poker, slots and internet gambling.
The ruling comes at a time when pari-mutuels, the Seminoles, anti-gambling forces and pro-Orlando voices again couldn't steer their legislators into a comprehensive gambling agreement. (No wonder!) And some use it as an example to go with slot referendums across the state, destination casino proposals and requests by South Florida pari-mutuels for lower tax rates and blackjack to compete with the Seminoles.
Predicably, NoCasinosInc. responded Wednesday by decrying "the latest round of legal maneuvering by slick pari-mutuel lawyers," as a "another outrageous example of why legislators need to stop talking about expanding gambling and get down to the relatively simple task of closing loophoes in existing laws." (My comment would be maybe NoCasinos should jump in, hire a bunch of lawyers to identify those 'loopholes' before getting "outmaneuvered." Light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.)
Anyway, it looks like West Flagler will go for the Florida City market, a middle-income area with no gambling option close by. Meanwhile, remember that Hialeah still has an appeal out for another permit, sitting in the Third DCA. What they'll do with it is unclear.
But as somewhat documented in the opening itself of Hialeah: Miami-Dade already has gambling, and what's really going on here is just figuring out how to cut up the market pie. The dedicated poker players already have a venue but just have to drive a little; they'll just choose Florida City if geography favors them. And the occasional gambler might visit from time to time, eschewing their four-night stay and $100 daily tickets in Orlando for about 30 minutes of slot play at 5 cents a push.
OK, just kidding about that one.