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Palm Beach County Is Slot Out Of Luck

Lisann Ramos

This legislative session  has toyed with the hearts of gaming aficionados who want more gambling, especially in Palm Beach County. 

Giants like Genting are pushing for casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward, but Palm Beach doesn't seem to be getting the same amount of love. 

Because of a vote that took place 10 years ago, Palm Beach doesn't allow slot machines in the county. 

This leaves gamblers there with no other option but to go south for slots. Elizabeth Paquette of West Palm Beach is one of those gamblers.

"People here are traveling to go to these casinos. I’d be nice to have it local," said Paquette.

In 2004, Dade and Broward went through with a statewide referendum that would allow slots in their counties. 

"We were encouraged to stay out of the referendum in order to protect the poker product that we had recently gotten," said Joe Rooney, VP of the Palm Beach Kennel Club.

Credit Lisann Ramos
Gamblers watching the live stream races at the Kennel Club

The Kennel Club has been around for more than eight decades. It has stayed on top of the game (no pun intended) by adding a poker room and a live streaming service that allows players to bet on dog and horse races across the country. 

But it’s hard to avoid what the next step is.

"Obviously we want to always remain relevant and a place where everybody wants to come so that moves us to trying to get slots," said Theresa Hume, an employee of the Kennel Club for 34 years. 

In mid-March the house gaming committee unanimously signed off on a bill that would create a gaming commission to regulate the industry. The working version of the bill would also allow slot machines in Palm Beach County.

The bill died shortly after. 

State Senator Maria Sachs of Delray Beach is the vice chair for the gaming committee. 

"I think that what we’re going to do in this gaming commission is hopefully we can wrap our arms around all the different issues on gambling in the state, and there’s so many," said Sachs. "We’re unlike any other state, as usual. So we really need to take our time and understand everything that’s involved in it."

In 2012, Palm Beach County voters approved a referendum to allow casino gaming in their county.

"I voted for slot machines in Palm Beach County. And I, and so many other residents here are wondering, what happened?" said Paquette. 

A lot now depends on Governor Rick Scott’s negotiations with the Seminole tribe to re-work the gaming deal made with the state in 2010. The compact, as it is called, currently doesn’t allow slots at pari-mutuels outside of Dade and Broward.  It expires next year.

If the talks work out in their favor, Palm Beach gamblers will finally have the slots they've been asking for. Until then they'll have to make the trip to Broward or Dade for casinos.

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