St. Lucie County voters want slot machines in pari-mutuel facilities

Voters took the first step Tuesday to getting slot machine gaming in St. Lucie County.

Voters approved, by a strong margin, a referendum allowing slot machines at jai alai frontons and pari-mutuels in the county, if the Legislature ever changes the law to allow slot machines outside of Native American lands and casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Dog- and horse-racing tracks and jai alai frontons can offer poker.

Owners of the Fort Pierce Jai-Alai & Poker in May asked the county commissioners to place the referendum on the ballot to gauge interest in the issue.

Although the fronton already has a poker room, operators feel they are losing business from locals who travel to South Florida to play slot machines.

In 2012 voters in Brevard and Palm Beach counties passed similar referendums, saying they wanted slot machines at pari-mutuels. Gadsden, Lee, Hamilton and Washington counties also passed similar referendums.

None has yet gotten slot machines.

In June, the Florida Supreme Court heard the case of Gretna Racing LLC v. Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, where the Tallahassee-based horse-track owner claimed changes to state law in 2010 were intended to allow slots at dog and horse tracks statewide if a county passed a referendum showing voters want it.

The court has yet to make a ruling.