Category Archives: Court Case/Decision

Court Rules Florida Greyhound Amendment doesn’t Violate 5th Amendment

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various efforts to shut down greyhound racing in Florida.  The direct issue of live dog racing was settled with voter support in favor of a constitutional ban on live races in Florida.  The facilities are still allowed to show simulcast races and they can still operate as mini casinos as the amendment didn’t shut down their existing slot machine offerings.  However, even with that much operating ability under the new law, facility owners challenged the law claiming it violated the 5th Amendment by taking away their property.  That case has now been dismissed by the Florida court.  An online source explains:

A federal judge in Florida has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the state’s greyhound racing ban on constitutional grounds. Chief US District Judge Mark Walker said in a 55-page ruling this week that the prohibition was a “legitimate exercise in Florida’s police power,” rejecting the plaintiffs’ arguments that the ban represented an illegal “taking of property” without just compensation.

Walker ruled that Florida had used its police powers to prevent “plaintiffs’ property from being used in a particular manner that the State has determined to be contrary to the health, morals, or safety of the community.”

The plaintiffs also argued the amendment had violated their equal protection rights because the State of Florida continued to permit wagering on horse racing. The lawsuit claimed dog racing had been singled out because it was “politically unpopular.” But the judge rejected the equal protection claim because Amendment 13 “does not involve suspect classes such as race, gender, or national origin.”

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Illegal Slot Machine Manufacture Faces Criminal Charges In Missouri

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of illegal gambling machines that have popped up all over Missouri.  Gambling is restricted to the 13 licensed casinos along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers only.  However, new slot machines have surfaced in gas stations and other establishments that have caught the ire of law enforcement.  At first only a few cases again the establishments were filed and very little attention was given to them. Then as more state wide attention emerged, several different attempts were made to eradicate them, including a civil lawsuit by legitimate manufactures against the illegal slot machines manufacturer.  That same manufacturer is now facing criminal charges. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports:

A county prosecutor has filed illegal gambling charges against Torch Electronics, one of the largest operators of unregulated slot machines in the state. Torch, owned by Wildwood businessman Steve Miltenberger, is one of the companies whose machines have triggered a mixed response from law enforcement. 

The company is also a player in Missouri politics, contributing more than $20,000 to Gov. Mike Parson’s election effort. The filing is the first known instance of a county prosecutor in Missouri bringing charges against the company. According to a probable cause statement, two Brookfield Police Department officers on Sept. 12 removed three “slot machines” from the County Line Convenience store after speaking with store manager Tannis Williams.

Because the machines are unregulated, machine revenues don’t go to public education, there are no rules for acceptable payouts, and there are no state gambling addiction resources funded by machine revenues. Money from Torch and its owner, Steven Miltenberger, flowed to numerous politicians last year, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.

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Missouri Gov. Opposes Gaming Commission and Missouri Highway Patrol on Illegal Slot Machines Highlighting the need for Legislation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the illegal gambling machines that have been popping up outside of casinos and all over Missouri.  Slot machines are only allowed in licensed Missouri casinos, yet the manufacture of the machines claim they aren’t games of chance, so they aren’t slot machines.  Many jurisdictions have dealt with pre reveal machines and they have all concluded they are slot machines. The Missouri Gaming Commission has defined them as illegal machines, but they can only enforce gambling regulations at the casinos.  The Missouri Highway Patrol has been clear they view them as gambling and they have been working with local prosecutors to try to crack down on the machines. Most recently, authorized slot machine manufacturers have taken to the courts to sue those that manufacture the illegal machines.  Various editorial boards are also standing up against this illegal expansion of gambling. The St Louis Post Dispatch had the following to say:

Reasons abound why the spread of unlicensed payout video-gaming machines in Missouri’s bars, restaurants and gas stations constitutes an intolerable situation. Legalized gambling was approved here as a tradeoff for state tax revenue, but the unlicensed machines don’t bring in any. The state regulates legal gambling operations to ensure they aren’t cheating their patrons, but there is no such protection for those who play these machines.

Another important reason regulation is necessary is that gambling is an addictive activity for some people, which is why the state requires that access to addiction services and a voluntary self-exclusion program be offered at regulated gambling sites. These unregulated sites have no such resources.

The editorial continues and its sentiment is joined by other editorial boards as well, so its odd that Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons isn’t convinced the machines are clearly illegal slot machines.  US News and World Report explains:

Gov. Mike Parson says he’s not convinced that unregulated and untaxed video gambling terminals in the state are illegal, even as investigators in his administration work to halt their spread. The governor’s stance is in contrast to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, whose leaders have made a decision. A patrol lieutenant told a state House committee in October that the machines are illegal and that its investigations resulted in dozens of criminal referrals to prosecutors.

Besides the Platte County case, several others have been filed, including one in Parson’s home county. Polk County Prosecutor Ken Ashlock said there are no payout requirements for unregulated machines, meaning the operators can keep more money than they could in one of the state’s 13 regulated casinos. “People are just getting cheated on them and they don’t know it,” he said.

The Governor’s position doesn’t instill confidence and some have argued its a symptom of a larger problem and is the real reason the Missouri legislator must address the issue this legislative session.  The Joplin Globe argues:

The biggest distributor of the machines, Torch Electronics, has aggressively marketed the games. It says the terminals are not gambling devices because a player has the option of checking the outcome of a wager by clicking an icon before continuing play, thereby removing the element of chance, though players are not required to click the icon before completing the play.

Torch employs politically connected lobbyists and high-powered consultants. The company has made campaign donations to key political players, including at least $20,000 to Gov. Mike Parson, according to a July report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The fact that criminal cases are going forward while the governor questions whether the devices are in fact illegal highlights the problem. Torch and similar companies distributing the devices are skirting the edges of the gambling laws in Missouri and appear to be trying to game the system through political influence.

The Missouri House held special hearings into the machines and unregulated gambling this past summer, and the Senate is looking at a plan to ban the terminals outright.

This is an issue of the letter of the law versus the intent of the law. The Missouri General Assembly must resolve the matter, to permit these games or to clearly ban them.

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Illegal Missouri Gambling Machine Manufacturer sued by Authorized Provider

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing impact of the illegal slot machines that have emerged all over the state.  Missouri limits gambling and slot machines to the 13 licensed casinos that are only authorized to operate on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  These illegal gambling machines have finally reached the forefront of regulators as both prosecutors and legislators have been working to find ways of cleaning up the problem.  Now, a new approach has emerged in the form of a civil lawsuit. US News and World Report explains: 

The owner of a Missouri coin-operated game company wants a judge to shut down another company’s video gambling terminals, alleging they are illegal and hurting profits.

TNT Amusements filed the civil lawsuit last week in Crawford County against Torch Electronics, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The suit also names Midwest Petroleum Company, which replaced TNT machines with Torch machines at its Midwest Travel Plaza truck stop along Interstate 44 in the Missouri town of Cuba.

The devices, which work in a similar fashion to slot machines, have been rolled out across the state by Torch and other companies. The TNT lawsuit argues that slot machines are only allowed in casinos.  By placing them in truck stops, gas stations and convenience stores, it is breaking state law. Turntine’s attorney, Elkin Kistner of Clayton, called Torch a “rogue operator.”

At least two pieces of legislation have been filed in recent days aimed at stopping Torch and other companies. Both could be debated when the Legislature convenes in January.

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Slot Machine Expansion Halted by Florida Supreme Court

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida by expanding slot machines in various jurisdictions. Many areas around Florida have looked to pass voter referendums to allow slot machines, and in several places, they passed. The problem? There was no explicit allowance by the government to allow gambling in those jurisdictions. Those communities argued the referendum was enough, but now the Florida Supreme Court has weighted in on the matter. An online source explains:

A Florida Supreme Court decision that could have resulted in a sweeping expansion of slot machines across the state, including in Palm Beach County, has instead restricted them to Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where they are already in place.

The decision means that pari-mutuels in Broward and Miami-Dade counties that already have slots, such as Mardi Gras and Gulfstream in Hallandale Beach and Isle Casino in Pompano Beach, will continue to have them. But at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, which has long sought to get in on the casino action, the blinking lights and whirling sounds of the one-armed bandits will remain out of reach.

The Supreme Court case stemmed from an attempt to open slot machines at a racetrack in Gretna, a small town in Gadsden County, along the border with Georgia at the start of the Panhandle. Like Palm Beach and six other counties, citizens of Gadsden had voted to approve slot machines

The Gretna racetrack owners argued that such a county referendum allowed slots without the approval of state law. But in a 6-0 decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled otherwise. “There must be ‘statutory or constitutional authorization’ for any countywide referendum approving slot machines at qualifying pari-mutuel facilities,” wrote Justice Charles Canady in his 16-page opinion. “The authorization must be found elsewhere in the law. And it is nowhere to be found.”

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Florida seeks dismissal of Greyhound Industry’s lawsuit aimed at Amendment 13

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Florida greyhound landscape and the most recent voter vote to ban greyhound racing. Recently, a lawsuit was filed by the industry claiming the government was taking its property with the new law. This particular angle was likely the only one lawyers though they might have a reasonable chance of winning considering how overwhelming the vote was in favor of banning greyhound racing by the people. The fact that the people voted to stop this form of gambling, is exactly why Florida has asked the courts to dismiss the lawsuit. An online source explains:

Attorney General Ashley Moody, Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration have asked a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit challenging a 2018 constitutional amendment that banned greyhound racing in Florida. Members of the greyhound industry alleged in the legal challenge that they were denied due process after voters approved the amendment.

But on Friday, state lawyers asked the federal court to dismiss the case, saying the plaintiffs “cannot sue the governor or member of his Cabinet over a proper vote taken by the people of Florida.” The court does not have the authority to grant an injunction because “there is in fact no government action to stop,” Moody’s lawyers argued.

In addition, the state argued that gambling on dog racing is a “privilege,” and not a property right, as the plaintiffs maintained. If the court does not dismiss the case, the state asked that it be moved from the Southern District of Florida to Tallahassee.

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UPDATE: DOJ Wire Act/Online Gambling Case Advances as Court Calls for Briefs

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to restore the original interpretation of the Wire Act. The Wire Act is the law responsible for the regulation of online gambling. Prior to a shocking reversal by the Obama Administration, the Wire Act made online gambling illegal. Their new interpretation claimed the law only applied to sports betting, meaning all other online gambling suddenly became legal. The Department of Justice under the Trump Administration is working toward restoring the original interpretation, thus making online gambling illegal. Their decision was challenged in court and overturned, but quickly appealed. That court has now called for briefs by each side. An online source explains:

The lawsuit over the *Wire Act and its applicability to online gambling is far from over. In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit just set the briefing schedule for William P. Barr, United States Attorney General and the United States Department of Justice. The First Circuit is requiring Barr and the DOJ to file their briefs and other necessary paperwork by Nov. 12.

With that in mind — and according to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure 31(a) — the New Hampshire Lottery Commission along with the other state lotteries and vendors that joined the suit have 30 days thereafter to respond after the DOJ files its brief. The DOJ’s reply brief is then due within 21 days after the plaintiffs respond.

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