Miami-Dade County

Court says Calder can switch from horse races to jai alai and keep its slot machines

An appellate court upheld a decision by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and said Calder Race Course could continue offering casino slot machines if it switched from horse racing to jai alai.
An appellate court upheld a decision by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and said Calder Race Course could continue offering casino slot machines if it switched from horse racing to jai alai. Miami Herald archives 2016

A state appeals court Wednesday said Miami-Dade County’s Calder Race Course can continue operating slot machines if it discontinues horse racing and offers jai alai games instead.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a decision by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and rejected arguments by thoroughbred breeders and owners, who had appealed the agency’s decision.

The case was rooted, in part, in a 2004 constitutional amendment that allowed pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to operate slot machines. Calder, which has run horse races for decades, obtained a permit to operate slot machines.

In 2018, Calder asked the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering whether it could continue to operate slot machines if it shifted from offering horse races to jai alai. The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association and Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co., Inc. opposed the proposal.

Wednesday’s ruling said Calder obtained its slot-machine license as what is known as an “eligible facility” under a section of state law.

“Contrary to the appellants’ arguments, nothing in the plain language of (the section of law) requires a facility to continue the same form of pari-mutuel wagering activity that originally qualified it for a slot machine license; nor does this statute tie an ‘eligible facility’ to the same type of racing or gaming as it had when the constitutional amendment was approved,” said the nine-page ruling, written by Judge James Wolf and joined by judges Clay Roberts and M. Kemmerly Thomas.

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