Bonita economic group urges turnout at slot machines public hearing

Should slot machines be installed at the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track?

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Lee County commissioners have a public hearing slated for 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Lee County Commission chambers at 2120 Main St. in Fort Myers.

— A Bonita Springs economic development group is trying to round up residents to make a strong showing at a public hearing Tuesday in Fort Myers that would set a November countywide referendum on allowing slot machines at pari-mutuel sites.

The public hearing is slated for 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Lee County Commission chambers at 2120 Main St. in Fort Myers.

The Bonita Springs Estero Economic Development Council is encouraging Bonita Springs residents to attend. Operators of the Bonita Springs greyhound track on Bonita Beach Road want to offer slot machines.

Although the development council hasn't taken a position, it supports a referendum allowing voters to decide whether the track in Bonita Springs should be permitted to offer slot machines.

"The EDC believes the voters should be the ones to decide, not the county commissioners," said Christine Ross, the council's executive director and the president and CEO of the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce.

Isadore Havenick, an executive with the Bonita Springs greyhound track, agreed.

"We just hope that the commission allows the residents of Lee County to decide this issue," he said, contending slot machines would create jobs for the community.

In April, Lee commissioners voted 4-1, with Commissioner Frank Mann dissenting, to hold a May 22 public hearing on whether to allow the referendum. Mann has said he doesn't believe slot machines would create jobs and some citizens at the meeting shared a similar sentiment, adding it could contribute to gambling problems.

Mayor Ben Nelson also supports the referendum.

"We are hoping the commission lets the public decide," Nelson said.

Estero Council of Community Leaders Chairman Don Eslick said the group hasn't heard from anyone seeking the group's support for the referendum, so it doesn't have enough information to consider taking a position.

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