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Councilman pushes to make slot machines legal in Jacksonville

Bill to be formally introduced to City Council Tuesday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City Coucilman Aaron Bowman is hoping to bring slot machines to Jacksonville.

Legislation was filed to put a referendum on the ballot in November asking voters whether to authorize slot machines at BestBet in Jacksonville's Arlington area.

The bill was filed by Councilman Bowman and will be introduced at a City Council meeting Tuesday.

"Part of the reason I'm for this is it's going to give quite a few jobs to Jacksonville. And also 1.5 percent of the money that they make is going to come into the city's coffers. And we estimate right now that's going to be about $5.7 million a year," Bowman said.

For people like Frank Lapore, BestBet is a good place to kill time and play his favorite game-poker. With the addition of slot machines, his wife would play as well.

Susie Wiles, spokesperson for BestBet, said that's the idea. Wiles saod bringing slot machines is a sure-fire way to create jobs, add tourism, and of course, bring money to the city.

"Things like infrastructure improvements and park programing, things that people in Jacksonville really care about, can be funded," Wiles said.

Coucilman Bowman hopes that support will catch on -- especially when it comes to letting the voters know that they'll have a voice.

"I think this is an appropriate time. Instead of 19 council members making a decision, give it to the people and let them speak," Bowman said. 

Even if the referendum passes in November, the state Supreme Court will likely end up weighing in on whether local governments can expand gambling on their own.

The full council is expected to act on Bowman's proposal in late June.