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Front Page » Top Stories » Hialeah Track Could Reopen For Racing Slots

Hialeah Track Could Reopen For Racing Slots

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Written by on May 3, 2007

By Eric Kalis
The owner of Hialeah Park Race Track may have an avenue to reopen with horse racing if the Legislature agrees to allow slot machines at select venues.

The House of Representatives this week formed a committee to consider allowing 10 parimutuel facilities in the state to have Class II slot machines, currently used in Indian casinos in the state.

The Hialeah track, which stopped conducting races in 2001, would join Flagler Dog Track, Miami Jai-alai and Calder Race Track as Miami-Dade County sites authorized for slots. Track officials would need to apply for a new license from the state’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which revoked the track’s racing permits in 2003.

A spokesman for the division said Tuesday that Hialeah Park Race Track has not applied for a new license.

Hialeah City Council President Esteban Bovo, who manages the park’s assets, could not be reached for comment.

Alex Fuentes, founder of Citizens of South Florida for the Preservation of Hialeah Race Track, said Tuesday that Mr. Bovo is in a tough spot as both a council member and park employee but ultimately wants the track saved. Mr. Fuentes spearheaded a campaign last year against redevelopment of the park.

"I spoke to Mr. Bovo on separate occasions, and he is open" to the campaign, Mr. Fuentes said. Track owner John Brunetti proposed last year to build a mixed-use complex at the park with more than 3,700 condominiums and 1 million square feet of commercial space. The City Council rejected the redevelopment plans but let Mr. Brunetti demolish horse stables in January.

The 71-year-old track is listed in the National Historic Registrar, but the designation would not protect it from development, Mr. Fuentes said.

Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina and City Councilwoman Cindy Miel have said their top choice is to bring racing back to the park.