In a last minute move, the Lee County commission passed a measure that will let voters decide whether they want slot machines alongside poker tables and greyhound racing in Bonita Springs.
The commission wasn’t set to take up the issue until about 45 minutes before the meeting, when it was added to the agenda.
Commissioners Brian Bigelow and Frank Mann voted against the measure and questioned the sudden rush to pass it.
“It just seems to dupe public notice and it troubles me greatly,” Bigelow said. “I’m not supporting this. The process is too hasty on too big an issue.”
The commission, however, was forced to move fast by an amendment last week to Senate Bill 382.
That amendment imposed a Jan. 31 deadline for counties to approve a referendum on slot machines at greyhound tracks.
“This is about protecting Lee County’s right to decide,” said Izzy Havenick, whose family owns the local greyhound track.
“We have months to work out all of these details, but we have until today to get the ball rolling to create hundreds of new jobs and revenue for the county,” he said.
The amendment would also enable dog tracks to cut out live racing in favor of slots, poker tables and remotely viewed races.
Mann said he worries about the potential of gambling to shape Lee County.
“I view this as the first domino potentially to fall in the world of gaming in Lee County,” Mann said. “It’s not really the first, but this will be a significant one that will make all the other ones easier and at that point we have dramatically changed the whole character of Lee County.”
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