Broward drafts slots-rules plan - Monday 24th of October 2005

Broward County unveiled a 422-page framework Friday for regulating casinos, a task taken on by county commissioners after lawmakers failed this spring to write guidelines to allow slot machines at four Broward parimutuels.

The newly released regulations come even as state legislative leaders have said theyll convene a special session in December and will likely tackle Broward slots guidelines even as they consider an overhaul of Floridas Medicaid healthcare program for the poor.

But even if the Legislature acts, that wont stop Broward County leaders from discussing and -- most likely -- passing the regulations that a consultant spent all summer developing, County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman said.

Its certainly not a wasted effort because weve heard many times before that theyre going to reach accord and they havent, Lieberman said. ``I dont believe it until I see a bill the governor signs.

A Broward County Circuit Court judge ordered the County Commission to come up with its own operating regulations after owners of parimutuels sued when the Legislature failed to pass slot machine rules during its regular session this spring.

The judges decision, which is under appeal by the Broward State Attorneys Office, gives the parimutuels the authority to operate even without state guidelines.

Browards draft regulations, released Friday, are designed to monitor the fairness of the slots being played, to audit how much money the casinos are making so they can be taxed fairly, and to make sure that no one with a criminal background is involved in the business.

The regulations are designed to make sure that if youre a customer, the games are fairly played and money is accounted for accurately, said Pete Corwin, an assistant to the Broward County administrator. ``And third, there are licensing and background checks.

Although owners of parimutuels were the impetus behind the county guidelines, they say they would prefer that they be issued by the state, said Dan Adkins, an executive at Hollywood Greyhound Track and a main backer of the effort to bring slot machines to South Florida.

But they also are pleased that someone did something to move the process forward, Adkins said.

We still have a lot of legal issues to go through, so Im not sure wed be jumping into business immediately, Adkins said. ``My preference is, without question, to have the Legislature resolve this.

Voters approved a Constitutional change in the November 2004 general election that allowed Broward and Miami-Dade voters to conduct a referendum to decide whether they wanted slots. Voters in Broward agreed to slot machines in March. Miami-Dade voters turned them down.

The referendum authorized slot machines at four Broward parimutuels: Hollywood Greyhound Track, Dania Jai-Alai and Gulfstream Park and Pompano Park horse tracks.

Broward county commissioners are scheduled to discuss the guidelines at a Nov. 1 workshop.

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