Florida Police Prepare for Gaming at Broward Racetracks

Security increased for introduction of slot machines at county's racetracks


May 3--At least 44 law enforcement officers will be added to state and local agencies when slot machines debut at Broward racetracks and a jai-alai fronton late this year.

The agencies are now moving ahead with training and hiring.

Responsibilities will include making sure the games are fair, protecting the money and providing uniformed officers. Adding the manpower will take several million from state and local coffers, which officials hope to recover from revenues on the slot machines.

Commissioners in Hallandale Beach, which will be home to half of Broward's slots, discussed the issue on Tuesday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is adding 39 positions, required by the new law that Gov. Jeb Bush signed earlier this year.

FDLE will focus on gambling issues, like making sure games are fairly played, spokeswoman Paige Patterson-Hughes said.

'A NEW AREA'

"This is a new area for us, and we're committed to doing this and doing the right thing," Patterson-Hughes said.

Local law enforcement will focus on related crimes that may increase when gambling arrives. Hallandale Beach Police Chief Tom Magill said his concerns include crimes like purse snatchings and people having their winnings stolen.

Hallandale Beach is home to Gulfstream Park racetrack and Mardi Gras Racetrack & Gaming Center, formerly called Hollywood Greyhound Track.

The city police added five positions this year, Magill said. Four detectives have been put in charge of gambling-related crime. And $2 million was set aside to hire more people if needed, Magill said.

A few officers may be inside the facilities, which will also have their own private security, Magill said. Most officers will be outside.

How to distribute those officers will be determined as slots come in.

"You have to wait to see the number of people you are dealing with," Magill said.

BSO JURISDICTION

The two other places getting slots fall under the Broward Sheriff's Office. BSO provides law enforcement for Dania Beach, home to Dania Jai-Alai, and Pompano Beach, home of Pompano Park harness track.

BSO has no plans to add deputies with slots coming in, BSO spokeswoman Liz Calzadilla-Fiallo said. Detectives in BSO's Strategic Investigations Division will be in charge of slots, Calzadilla-Fiallo said.

All three agencies are receiving training from agencies in other states with gambling.

The facilities also could bulk up law enforcement on their own. Busy venues traditionally hire off-duty officers to help with safety. These officers have the same authority as on-duty officers.

The Mardi Gras kept five or six off-duty officers during it's heyday, and now is down to one or two. It probably will go back to five or six when slots arrive, said Dan Adkins, executive at Mardi Gras and a major advocate for slots.

<<Miami Herald, The (KRT) -- 05/04/06>>