The 1st District Court of Appeal on Thursday rejected a 2009 gambling measure that could have helped lead to additional card rooms in Palm Beach and Volusia counties, saying its narrowness made it an unconstitutional “special” law.
The change, which was included in a broader gambling bill, dealt with converting permits for jai-alai frontons to permits for greyhound racing. It included conditions, however, that the appeals court said made it only apply to Palm Beach and Volusia, though it might apply to Marion County in the future.
The three-judge panel said that violated part of the Florida Constitution restricting passage of laws that do not apply generally to the state, measures known as “special” laws.
“(We) conclude that the law challenged in this case sets forth, on its very face, very specific limiting criteria for conversion of jai-alai permits into greyhound permits,” the ruling said. “The law is so specific that the Legislature essentially described specific counties as the ones where jai-alai permits may be converted to greyhound permits.”
The law was challenged by DeBary Real Estate Holdings, Inc., a quarter-horse permit holder that has sought in the past to open a pari-mutuel facility in western Volusia County.
The companies converting jai-alai to greyhound permits were associated with the Palm Beach Kennel Club and the Daytona Beach Kennel Club, corporate records indicate. Barry Richard, an attorney for License Acquisitions, which is associated with the Palm Beach Kennel Club, said during oral arguments last year that the conversions would have allowed the tracks to operate additional card rooms in the counties.
The appeals court overturned a ruling last year by a Leon County circuit judge.