Category Archives: Court Case/Decision

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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New Slot Machines Could Significantly Expand Gambling in Florida and Damage the Seminole Gambling Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling negotiations between Florida state and the Seminole Tribe regarding the new gambling compact. The compact impacts the expansion of gambling and the flow of money into state coffers by providing exclusive rights to certain gambling games to the Seminole Tribe at there casino’s in exchange for guaranteed payments to the state. This effectively limits the type of gambling around the state and helps limit it to certain geographic areas. A recent case was already adjudicated in favor of the Seminole Tribe that ruled the Florida Government has violated the exclusivity of the compact by allowing table games at other venues. That issues appeared resolved when an Judge declined the appeal by the state. However, a new issue involving a new type of slot machine has emerged that once again speaks to the issue of expanded gambling possibly violating the compact. The Saint Peters Blog explains:

If it looks like a slot machine, and plays like a slot machine, it’s a slot machine, the *Seminole Tribe of Florida is telling state leaders. An order by a Tallahassee judge, first reported by FloridaPolitics.com, declared that certain slot machine-style entertainment devices aren’t slot machines under state law.

The Tribe disagreed. It now says those games violate a deal between the Tribe and the state, known as the Seminole Compact. That could have “massive consequences costing the Tribe and the State to lose multi-billions of dollars,” according to the Tribe’s recent court filing. In a letter sent last Wednesday to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Tribal Chairman Marcellus Osceola said the games were “an expansion of gaming” and a “serious violation” of the compact, which guarantees the Tribe exclusive rights to slots outside of South Florida. 

So what are these machines and why is there a question as to how they are or are not slot machines?   These slot machines are different because they have a “preview” screen. The player presses a preview button and it will show the outcome of the next spin. The Judge rationalized that knowing the outcome means its not a game of change but a game of skill. Those that understand the psychology of what is really going on argue that even though the player knows that move, they still press the button and take the loss or win so they can see if they win big on the play after. They may see that the next pull will lead to a loss, but they gamble that the next pull could be the big win. So its still very much a game of chance as the player is taking a change on the unseen move one ahead. Florida Politics explains the implications: 

Players must “press a ‘preview’ button before a play button can be activated,” the judge’s order explained. The outcome of the next game is always known, thus it’s not a game of skill or chance, he said. You always know you’re a winner or a loser.

*Kathey Bright Fanning*, head of the [Gator Coin] company, said she was “pleased” with the ruling. “It’s all about innovation,” Fanning said.

Whether the innovation in pre-reveal games runs afoul of the Seminole Compact could be a court fight for another day. Some attorneys says pre-reveal is a form of “*electronically-assisted pull-tab game that the Compact says is a “gaming expansion” against its terms.

Nonetheless, “I see a giant wave coming,” said one person in Florida’s gambling industry who asked not to be named. “My phone is blowing up from people (at pari-mutuels) who want these” pre-reveal games.

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Update: Florida Lottery Gambling Expansion Ruled Void

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issues related to the Florida Lottery. Most recently, it was reported that a new contract with the Florida Lottery could effectively double the amount of gambling from the lottery. An online source reported that a lawsuit was planned by Florida Speaker of the House:

According to the House, the Lottery does not have the authority to sign a contract requiring Legislature to pay more money for gaming. The council for the Speaker of the House stated that the Secretary of the Florida Lottery signed a multi-year contract with IGT Global Solutions Corporation that requires the Florida Lottery to spend more money in the future than what has been appropriated in the budget categories.

With the signing of the contract, the legislative budget for the Fiscal Year 2017 to 2018 will require an aggregate increase in the ticket machine budget categories and the categories will have to be realigned in order to accommodate the new increase via the contract. According to the council, this is impermissible.

Now that the case has been filed, a local judge wasted no time hearing the case. The Judge has ruled the contract is void and unenforceable. An online source explains:

 In what is the second legislative victory for House speaker Richard Corcoran (pictured), on Tuesday, Judge Karen Gievers said that Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie failed to comply with a requirement of Florida law that states that certain contracts have to be pre-approved by the Legislature prior to signing. Judge Gievers 15-page ruling said that in signing the contract, with IGT Global Solutions Corp., a subsidiary of London-based International Game Technology (IGT), and obligating the state to nearly $13 million more than was authorized by the Legislature, the agency overstepped its budgetary authority.

Judge Gievers declared the contract, which would run until 2028, “void and unenforceable,” which means the agency will have to reconfigure a new contract to provide the Florida Lottery with a selection of solutions and services including Powerball and other ticket games.

In a joint statement with Judiciary Chairman Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor and Rules Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami, Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said “Today’s decision is a victory for the taxpayer and the rule of law,” and, “It reinforces the idea that respecting the separation of powers is not an arcane idea or an out-of-date philosophy,” according to the /Tampa Bay Times.

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New Jersey Petitions Supreme Court to Allow their Overturned Attempt at Legalizing Sports Betting in NJ

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of New Jersey to legalize sports betting in their state. Its been long the case that sports betting has been limited to Las Vegas as they were grandfathered into legislation that prevented states from allowing sports betting. Time & time again New Jersey has attempted a new way to legalize sports betting and time & time again their attempts have been shot down by the courts. There last was a 2014 law that was also halted by the courts. They are taking the final step with this attempt by making an appear to the Supreme Court. The Times Union explains:  

After an initial 2012 law allowing sports gambling in New Jersey was struck down in court, Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law in 2014 that repealed prohibitions against sports gambling at casinos and racetracks.

That tactic — repealing prohibitions instead of approving gambling — was seen as a way to get around the federal law by not having sports gambling officially authorized by the state.

But that also met defeat at the hands of a federal judge in New Jersey and a federal appeals court in Philadelphia.

In this week’s brief, the state argued the federal government, while able to regulate citizens directly, may not “require the states to govern by Congress’ instruction.”

Put differently, the appeals court’s ruling invalidating New Jersey’s 2014 law violates the Constitution by “authorizing a federal court injunction mandating that a State reinstate prohibitions it has chosen to repeal,” attorneys representing the state wrote.

The Supreme Court is expected to either pick up the case or reject hearing it, thus affirming the lower courts ruling that the law is illegal, within a month.

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