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Jackpot for Jacksonville: Slot machine referendum approved

Duval County Referendum 1 passes 54-46 percent

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Bestbet Jacksonville facility near the Regency Mall scored a big win Tuesday as Duval County voters approved a referendum to allow slot machines in the facility.

According to County Referundum 1, slots will only be allowed at the Bestbet on Monument Road, and no other facility within 50 miles can legally set up slots.

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

But before that can happen, the Florida Supreme Court must rule on a case involving a similar referendum in Gadsden County.

Currently, the state claims only the Legislature can decide if and where slot machines are allowed. Gretna Racing argued in June that state law allows counties to put the question of slot machines to voters in the form of a local referendum.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Referendum 1 passed by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent -- 225,390 "yes" votes and 191,057 "no" votes.

The referendum has also received a lot of support from city leaders. The Jacksonville City Council approved in June to put the referendum on the ballot.

Peter Litsky, whose Army Navy Outdoors store is next to Bestbet Jacksonville, said he is excited about the potential boon the slot machines will bring not only to the parimutuel facility but also to the area.

“I think they have been a good neighbor. They keep a clean and safe environment, so I think more traffic is going to help the Regency area in general,” Litsky said. “We were for it to begin with. Anything that is going to bring good, positive traffic to the area. “

Susie Wiles, spokeswoman for Bestbet Jacksonville, said the facility now awaits the Supreme Court's decision.

“Now, we will begin to look at the process with the state of Florida,” Wiles said. “As soon as the administrative process is finished, we will do that as quickly as possible.”

Wiles said the slots will create jobs and enhance economic development in the area, and that the voters got it right last night. Litsky said he feels the slot machines will help revitalize the area, something Bestbet has already begun doing.

“I think it's stopped the decay, especially with a large building like that,” he said. “I'd rather see it thriving than empty.”

There is no timeframe on when the Supreme Court will have a decision on the Gadsden County case. 

About the Authors:

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