PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - It is the latest signal about the brewing debate here and statewide over gambling. Broward and Miami-Dade counties already allow slot machines at pari-mutual establishments like horse racing tracks and jai-alai. Now, Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson wants to convince his fellow commissioners to let voters decide if slot machines are a good bet.
The Palm Beach Kennel Club is gearing up for the winter season. As the snow birds return, traffic picks up; however, if slot machine gambling is approved locally, they would likely see even more business.
"We have bingo, we have dog tracks, we have racing tracks," explained Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson. "There's no such thing as being half pregnant. If we have gambling, let's bring a lot of things in here."
The Palm Beach Kennel Club's poker room is packed, even on a light day at the track. If voters passed a referendum for slot machines, the kennel club says it could expand its facility and add more jobs. Aaronson said it will also mean a lot more tax revenue.
"We're talking about millions and millions and tens of millions of dollars," he said. "Who knows? Maybe hundreds of millions of dollars."
Several pari-mutual facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties already have voter approved slot machines. A referendum in Palm Beach County could bring them here as well.
"If we don't have some sort of gaming here and they have all the gaming in Miami-Dade County, we're going to lose tourism. We're going to lose conventions," Aaronson explained. "This sets us up, once we have slots in place, this also allows us to go forward at a future date possibly for casino-type gambling."
If Palm Beach County Commissioners go forward with discussions about a referendum, they would hold two public hearings before making a decision to put it on the ballot next November. At that point, the future of slot machines in Palm Beach County would rest with voters.
"It will bring in business to the smaller businesses here and grow the economy," said Jill Leifer of Boynton Beach. "I'm in favor of it, also because I enjoy the slots myself."
"I don't think it's a great way to grow jobs for the economy with slots,"stated Tom Gray of Palm Beach County. "I just don't see that connection."