What's On Your Ballot? County Referendum No. 1: Slot Machines

Oct 19, 2016

The only facility that would qualify under Referendum 1 would be the BestBet on Monument Road in Arlington. BestBet also runs a poker room and dog racing track in Orange Park.
Credit Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

Slot machines could soon be legal in Jacksonville, depending on what voters decide.

County Referendum No. 1 on the Nov. 8 general election ballot asks whether pari-mutuel betting facilities in Duval County can install slot machines.

“Pari-mutual" refers to betting pools where winners split the collected wagers, minus the amount that goes to the “house,” or hosting facility.

The idea of putting a slot machine referendum on the ballot in Duval County came from Jacksonville city Councilman Aaron Bowman.

“In Duval County, Jacksonville, we have one pari-mutuel facility and that is BestBet,” Bowman said.  “So the way the state language reads, if we get this approved we could have slot machines only in that facility, so it’s not going to be like they’re in multiple locations.”

Customers at BestBet on Monument Road in Arlington play poker and bet on televised greyhound dog races.

But even if Duval County voters say yes to slot machines, it might not matter in the long term.

The Florida Supreme Court is weighing a case brought by Gretna Racing, a small horse track in rural Gadsden County. That pari-mutuel facility argued in June state law allows counties to put the question of slot machines to voters in the form of a local referendum, but the state claims only the Legislature can decide if and where they’re allowed.

The outcome will affect at least six counties where slot machines have already been approved.  Seven, if Duval County voters say yes.

The state Supreme Court does not have a deadline to rule on the matter.

Reporter Cyd Hoskinson can be reached at choskinson@wjct.org, 904-358-6351 or on Twitter at @cydwjctnews.