Will voters allow slot machines at Regency poker room?

Referendum 1 would expand gambling at Jacksonville facility

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In just a few weeks, Jacksonville voters will decide whether to expand gambling in the city.

Referendum 1 will allow voters to decide whether slot machines can go inside the Bestbet facility near the Regency Mall.

Jacksonville’s City Council approved putting the measure on the ballot over the summer.

Signs favoring the measure are at the Bestbet on Monument Road, and it doesn't take long to find customers outside the facility that support it.

“I think it’d be a great idea to bring plenty of jobs,” Lisa Hinson said.

“It’s a real good thing for the area,” Tray Floyd said.

Television commercials promoting the measure tout its ability to bring jobs and an economic boost to the struggling Regency area.

Peter Litsky, who owns the Army Navy Outdoors supply store next door to the poker room, said Bestbet is an exceptional neighbor.

“From the business end, anything that’s going to drive good traffic to the area is going to help,” Litsky said. “And because they do drive so much security and because of the environment they maintain, it will always be a good situation.”

But the referendum has caused confusion about how much gambling would show up in Jacksonville.

According to the proposal, slots would only be allowed at the Bestbet on Monument Road, and no other facility within 50 miles could legally set up slots.

Many people are on the fence about the referendum, saying they see the positives but worry about negatives that can come with legalized gambling.

“A lot of people are addicted to things, and I think gambling may just be one of them,” one person, who declined to be named, said.

No matter how Jacksonville votes, the Florida Supreme Court will have final say on the issue.

The court is looking at a case that concerns whether local cities and counties like Jacksonville can overrule state gambling laws and allow slot machines in their communities.

About the Author:

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.