While Duval, Florida residents voted to authorize slot machines in the county, the state has turned down bestbet’s request to add 2,000 slot machines to its poker facility in Jacksonville. The state cited a number of reasons why it could not allow bestbet to offer slot games, including the fact that slots referenda are only allowed to take place in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Bestbet said it would not take any action at this time.
Leading up to the November 2016 referendum, bestbet spent over $2 million lobbying voters to vote for the authorization of slot games in Duval. As a result, they were given the county’s blessing and in February, bestbet applied to state regulators for permission to install 2,000 slot machines in the bestbet poker room which operates from a converted Garden Ridge warehouse in Jacksonville.
In the denial letter to bestbet, the state listed three reasons why it was not giving permission.
- Florida’s law does not allow the authorization of slots in counties that approved a voter referendum unless the referendum appears in the state constitution or was authorized by law.
- As stated above, slots referenda may only to occur in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, as per state law.
- Slots may only be installed in buildings that are “contiguous and connected to the live gaming facility.” Since the Jacksonville facility has no live racing, this would serve as a good enough reason to deny the request.
Bestbet has said that it will not appeal the decision at this point; instead, it will wait to see the outcome of a gambling bill proposed by the Senate legislation that would allow slots in any counties where voters gave their approval, such as the case of Duval. Other states where slots may be allowed, under the proposal, are Gadsden, Brevard, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington.
Speaking for bestbet, Brian Hughes said that the company had no plans to sue right now. “Bestbet is hopeful the Legislature and the courts will recognize that a decisive majority in Duval County voted in support of adding slot machine games,” he said.