Miami-Dade officials are planning to install slot machines at the Miami-Dade International Airport but Florida gambling regulators are having second thoughts about the plan. One of their main concerns is if the slots plan is legal. In a letter to the Miami International Airport, E.J. Barnes, a top official with the state's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, stated that Miami-Dade County may not be eligible for a pari-mutuel gambling permit because it is only limited to "individuals" under state law.
MIA officials, who are desperate to solve their operational deficit, hope to acquire a quarter-horse racing permit that would permit the installation of slot machines beyond MIA's security checkpoints. The permit, while potentially giving the county the right to offer slot machines, also requires regular offering of quarter-horse races, which the county would likely to host at Calder Park or Gulfstream Park.
Marc Dunbar, a gaming industry lobbyist who is managing the county's slots application, said on August 8th, 2009 that he is hopeful that they will succeed despite the questions being raised by the state regulators. He cites a decades-old Florida Attorney General opinion that states governments can operate gaming establishments. Dunbar said that the 1976 opinion was issued when Hialeah was considering taking over the Hialeah Park horse racing track.
Dunbar said that if Hialeah could operate slot machines, the county certainly could. He added that he would provide the additional documents needed by the state in the following days. Dunbar disputed the notion that MIA had submitted an incomplete slots application, stating the state's pari-mutuel division has several staff members that review slots application and that some of Miami International Airport's back-up materials may have been accidentally misplaced as the gaming application was shuffled between employees.