Category Archives: Court Case/Decision

Florida and the Seminole Tribe finally reach a new Gambling agreement

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing struggle between Florida and the Seminole Tribe to come to an agreement over exclusivity rights in the local gambling landscape. The part of the Seminole Compact that dealt with table games and other exclusivity rights has been in need of a new agreement for some time now, and each new gambling bill that has been suggested seemingly strained the nature of such an agreement. Additionally, earlier iterations of a new compact have included far more gambling expansion proposals than legislators would allow. Now, it appears interested parties have come to an agreement and it reestablishes exclusivity and doesn’t allow an uptick in gambling expansion. The Miami Herald reports:

Blackjack will continue uninterrupted at casinos run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, parimutuels will be ordered to stop offering controversial competing card games, and the State of Florida will have access to more than $340 million in new money, under a settlement agreement reached late Wednesday between the tribe and state regulators.

Under the agreement, the Seminole Tribe has agreed to continue monthly revenue sharing payments to the state in return for the state’s agreeing to enforce a judge’s ruling that allows it to continue to operate blackjack and other banked card games at its casinos for another 13 years.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation must also enforce a rule that prevents competing casinos and card rooms from operating blackjack and slot machines that mimic the banked card games the tribe is entitled to operate exclusively in Florida.

“The settlement is one of the rare incidents where everybody benefits,” said Barry Richard, attorney for the Seminole Tribe. “Nobody gave up anything. The state has an immediate infusion of money, and the tribe gets to continue its games.” 

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Supreme Court Decides to Hear New Jersey Sports-Betting Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of New Jersey to legalize sports betting. Each attempt has been opposed by the major sports leagues and the NCAA and each attempt has resulted in failure. Their latest attempt is attempt lead to another ruling against them in federal court, so they appealed to the Supreme Court. Many thought the odds of the court picking up the case were long, especially after the Trump Administration’s Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall submitted a brief to the Court siding against the New Jersey law. Such reports don’t always lead to a denial of the Court to pick up the case, but the odds are slim as the Court tends to side with the Solicitor General in nearly 80% of cases. The odds of the law being upheld are still rather small, as every attempt made so far has been shut down by the courts, as Yahoo Sports explains:

On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court announced it would hear an appeal to reinstate a 2012 New Jersey law that would legalize sports wagering at the state’s casinos and racetracks.

While there is still a long, long way to go, it is as significant of a development in the legalization of sports betting as there’s been in years.

A series of lower courts said the state law, championed by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, was in conflict with the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). That law prohibits sports wagering outside of Nevada and, in limited ways, three other states.

There is certainly no guarantee the Supreme Court will rule in favor of New Jersey; every lower court has sided with the federal government. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals out of Philadelphia ruled 10-2 in favor of the feds. Christie, a former federal prosecutor, knew there would be a considerable legal fight, although he likely never anticipated losing every time.

This case centers around the PASPA, but its possible for New Jersey to lose this case and state level sports gambling to still be made legal in the US. If Congress were to repeal or make changes to the law, then it could open the door to all states. The Washington Post reports: 

And even if New Jersey loses its Supreme Court case, its fight for sports gambling has put the issue in the national spotlight, generating a new conversation about whether a partial ban on sports betting is the best way forward.

Last month, a congressional committee introduced draft legislation that would repeal PASPA and allow states to legalize online gambling, with oversight provided by the Federal Trade Commission. Frank Pallone Jr. (D), the New Jersey congressman who is spearheading the federal legislation, said Tuesday he was cheered by the news out of the Supreme Court.

A number of other states beyond New Jersey also have considered legislation that would legalize the practice.

No date has been set for the one-hour oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court justices, though a timeline for the case appears to be taking shape. Each side will file briefs supporting their arguments over the next few months.

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Florida Judge Changes ruling on Pre-reveal slot machines

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a new waive of machines that could have drastically changed the gambling landscape in Florida. The machines in question are known as pre-reveal machines, and they are basically slot machines that show you the next spin. Initially, a Florida judge ruled that if you know the outcome then its not gambling because the player gets a preview of what result will come up with the spin. This meant that any establishment could offer these slot machines with no regulation or license required. The judge was urged to reexamine what the machines do. Those familiar with the machines operation explained that even though the player knows the move that’s about to come, they are actually placing a bet on what comes after that move. After a closer look, the Miami Herald is reporting that the judge has changed his mind and these types of slot machines will constitute illegal gambling in not approved and state regulated venues:

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled Monday that the electronic devices, in use in bars, strip malls and convenience stores throughout the state, violate a law banning slot machines outside of approved sites. Cooper held the hearing after Florida gambling regulators and the Seminole Tribe asked him to reconsider a March ruling in which he authorized the games.

Cooper originally sided with the manufacturer and the distributor of the machines, finding that they don’t violate prohibitions against slots because the games include a “preview” feature advising players of the outcome “before the player commits any money to the game by activating the ‘play’ button.”

But on Monday, Cooper said he had erred. “He said he was convinced he had made the wrong decision. He said he made a mistake and he felt these machines were slot machines within the meaning of the statute,” Barry Richard, who represents the Seminole Tribe, told The News Service of Florida after Monday’s hearing.

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New Jersey’s Efforts to have the Supreme Court hear it’s Sports Betting Case have been seriously Undermined by Current Administration

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many failed attempts by New Jersey to legalize sports betting in its state. There most recent legislative attempt was shut down by the court and they have appealed the case to the Supreme Court. Major opposition have been seen from the NCAA, NFL, NHL, MLB and the federal government. The most recent communication to the Supreme Court is another blow to New Jersey’s sports betting hopes and once that might be difficult to overcome. An online political source reports the details: 

When the U.S. Supreme Court in January delayed a decision on whether consider allowing sports betting in New Jersey, justices said they first wanted to hear what President Donald Trump ‘s administration had to say.

The administration finally weighed in, and its message was not what the state wanted to hear: Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall said New Jersey didn’t have a case.

The state’s effort to get around the federal ban on sports betting by repealing state laws prohibiting such wagering and allowing to proceed without regulation “is no different than a positive enactment authorizing such gambling,” Wall wrote in a 24-page brief.

The Supreme Court can still choose to hear the case, but the odds don’t seem to be in New Jersey’s favor. ESPN reports why the recommendation to the Supreme Court to not accept the case is so detrimental to New Jersey:

The United States Solicitor General’s office filed a brief on Wednesday recommending that the Supreme Court decline to review New Jersey’s latest effort to offer legal sports betting. The Supreme Court, which in January asked the Department of Justice for its view on the case, is expected to decide whether to accept New Jersey’s appeal by the end of June. According to a 2009 academic study the Supreme Court follows the recommendation of the Solicitor General 79.6 percent of the time. 

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UPDATE: Florida Supreme Court Rules Against County Approved Slot Machine Referendums

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling through slot machine referendums in jurisdictions where the legislature has not approved them. They key case involved a voter approved referendum in Gadsden County. Creek Entertainment Grenta lawyers claimed that because the people voted for slot machines in their county and there was a facility in the county, a previous rule change by the legislature opened the door for referendums like theirs. The State argued that the legislature must expressly allow a county to have slot machines and no where in the law does it allow for counties to simply vote them into existence. The implications of the case are huge as many counties in the state followed and would try to follow suit. The Florida Times-Union reports:

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the state’s denial of slot machine licenses in a county where slots were approved in a voter referendum. The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling concluded that state law does not allow local referendums in these counties to determine whether slots can be allowed there.

The ruling in the Gadsden County case also affects Duval, where voters approved a slots initiative in November. The state also denied Bestbet Jacksonville’s application for slots licenses at its Arlington facility. Voters in six other counties where slots referendums were approved will also be impacted by the ruling.

The anti-gambling group No Casinos celebrated the ruling. It is also backing a ballot initiative in 2018 that asks Florida voters to further limit the expansion of gambling. “We scored a partial victory with this ruling today and intend to score a complete victory with the Voters in Charge initiative in 2018,’’ No Casinos President John Sowinski said in a statement. “The people of Florida should have the final say on whether or not to legalize casino-style gambling.”

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UPDATE: Judge Could Reconsider Slot Machine Ruling Involving New “Pre-reveal” Style Slot Machines

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a new wave of machines that could drastically change the gambling landscape in Florida. The machines are known as pre-reveal machines and they are basically just slot machines that show the result before the player pulls the handle. This preview screen is why the Judge ruled it was a game of skill and not a game of chance and thus didn’t fall under existing slot machine restrictions and regulations. However, many disagree with such a ruling and are worried that these machines will expand gambling in a terrible way. Now, it appears, the Judge may be open to revising is ruling as the Seminole Tribe has provided some key analysis and motion to the court. Florida Politics online reports: 

Judge John Cooper set a hearing for June 19 in the Leon County Courthouse, court dockets show, after the *Seminole Tribe of Florida asked to intervene. The move also puts a hold on an appeal filed in the 1st District Court of Appeal by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), which regulates gambling. The Tribe**will argue that Cooper’s decision “upends the Compact,” the 2010 agreement between the Tribe and the state for exclusive rights to offer certain gambling in return for a cut of the revenue. That could cost the state “multi-billions of dollars.”

“The court’s decision would lead to an unprecedented expansion of slot machine gambling in the state, destroying the exclusivity that the Tribe bargained for,” says a memo by Barry Richard, the Tribe’s outside counsel in Tallahassee. As one person in Florida’s gambling industry, who asked not to be named, said after the ruling, “I see a giant wave coming … My phone is blowing up from people (at pari-mutuels) who want” pre-reveal games.

In addition to the exclusivity agreement not being taken into account, they are also pointing out the general misunderstanding the Judge faced when rationalizing how the games worked and why it might be skill rather than chance. Florida Politics continues:

In his memo, Richard suggested Cooper misunderstood the game play: “The player is not wagering for the already revealed outcome, but rather on the next outcome, which is unknown.

“Players are not … merely spending money to see spinning reels and flashing lights,” Richard wrote. “Rather, it is a slot machine, with which players are wagering on an unknown, unpredictable outcome” that they may or may not win. Other states, including Indiana and *North Carolina, have found pre-reveal games to be illegal gambling, he added.

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Florida Initiative Petition Amendment to Require Voters to Approve Gambling Expansion clears Florida Supreme Court Challenge

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling amendment proposed by Voter’s in Charge. The petition seeks to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot giving voters the last vote on gambling expansion. As it stands now, the Florida legislature can pass gambling expansion even when the vast majority clearly supports leaving gambling where it is or ever reducing current gambling levels. The amendment would leave the final decision to the voters. The petition was challenged and the Supreme Court reviewed submitted briefs. After entertaining all arguments, the Supreme Court has ruled the petition doesn’t violate any state provisions and can proceed to the voters once the appropriate amount of signatures are gathered. The SunSentinel explains:

The court ruled 4-2 that the amendment’s wording was not misleading and sticks to one subject. The amendment gives Florida voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling.”

Backers of the amendment will still need to gather more than 700,000 signatures to make the 2018 ballot. They had submitted 74,626 signatures as of Thursday, according to the state Division of Elections.

Each chamber has passed their own gambling bills this month and they differ quite a bit. When that happens, they come together to produce a final bill that both sides can agree on. This ruling has caused the Florida legislature to cancel plans for a conference between the House and Senate to discuss their respective gambling bills. The SunSentinel continues:

Both the House and Senate have passed gambling bills this session, which ends May 5. The two bills are vastly different, forcing the two chambers to go into a conference to iron out the details.

That conference had been tentatively set for 4 p.m. Thursday, but the court’s decision to allow the constitutional amendment to go forward indefinitely postponed it, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

“The Supreme Court ruled today on voter control of gaming. I want to digest the decision before moving forward,” said conference chairman Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

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