Category Archives: Court Case/Decision

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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Florida State Sen. President Might Back Voter-Approved Slot Machines Which Could Further Complicate Seminole Compact Negotiations

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent voter-approved slot machines measures that could lead to an expansion of gambling in the state. The issue at hand is that the areas where these slot machines were voted on are not areas that the state has approved for gambling. A Florida Supreme Court ruling on the matter will likely clarify an existing and similar case by ruling that gambling expansion in Florida is limited by the constitution and must have approval of the legislature. However, there are signals that the new Florida State Senate President might actual back such voter-approved gambling expansion measures. The Sun Sentinel Explains: 

Voters in Duval and St. Lucie counties last month approved referendums to allow slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities, joining six other counties that had done so earlier. But the lucrative machines have not started whirling in the counties as the gambling industry, regulators and lawmakers watch a case at the Florida Supreme Court and legal issues involving the Seminole Tribe of Florida. At a breakfast meeting Tuesday with reporters, Negron said he thinks the Legislature should follow the will of voters if slot machines are approved in referendums.

There are implications beyond just the two pari-mutuel facilities mentioned. Allowing such expansion could also impact the Seminole Compact negotiations with Florida State as well. The Sun Sentinel continues:

But negotiations about a revised compact also could involve whether the tribe would have exclusive rights to offer slot machines outside of Broward and Miami-Dade counties — and how that would affect the counties where voters have approved referendums. Negron said Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is slated to become the next Senate president, will take the chamber’s lead in discussions about the compact. If a deal is reached with the tribe, it would have to be approved by the Legislature. 

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Florida State Sen. President Hopeful over New Seminole Gambling Compact Deal

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing dealings between Florida and the Seminole Tribe over gambling exclusivity in the state. An agreement was reached between the two to exclusively offer table games in exchange for monetary compensation to the state. The original compact was set up in 2010 for 20 years with a renegotiation period for table games in 2015. That time came and went without a full deal being reached. At the deadline, the Florida Gov and the Tribe reached an agreement, but given the massive amount of additional gambling expansion, the Florida Legislature failed to ratify the agreement. The two have been involved in various legal battles since, but the Seminole Tribe just won a major case against the state for violating exclusivity and not negotiating in good faith.  The court agreed that the state violated the exclusivity agreement and are now allowed to continue to allow those table games through the originally compact term in 2030. Its not surprising then, that the Legislature is even more motivated to come to terms on a new gambling compact. The Sun Sentinel explains:

During a news conference Tuesday, shortly after being sworn in as Senate president, Negron said he supports reaching a new deal with the tribe, while also taking into consideration issues affecting the state’s pari-mutuel facilities. Such an agreement likely would involve the tribe making payments to the state for the right to offer certain games at its casinos.

“I’m optimistic that we can work together with our colleagues in the House and ratify a compact, hopefully long term enough so that the state has predictability in revenue and that’s also fair to pari-mutuels, who are also involved in gaming throughout Florida,” Negron said.

Lawmakers have been unable for years to pass major gambling legislation, as the issue often pits different parts of the gaming industry and also draws opposition from many conservative lawmakers.

The Florida Legislative session doesn’t begin until March and Negron believes there is time to get an agreement reached. Both sides should be willing to engage in negotiations, but the state is now at more of a disadvantage and will need to focus on reducing gambling, not drastically expanding it like they failed to push through with the last attempt. The Sun Sentinel continues: 

Negron expressed optimism that a deal could be reached and approved during the 2017 legislative session, which starts in March. “Of course, it’s November, there’s plenty of time,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. “We were close to having the outline of a potential agreement last session, so it’s not as if we’re starting from scratch.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, said Monday that Hinkle’s ruling benefited the tribe and “marginally” weakened the state’s negotiating position on a new deal. But he said the tribe still has reasons to negotiate a new deal with the state. “What they need is long-term stability,” Corcoran said. “And so yeah, they’re going to still come to the table, they’re going to still want that long-term stability, and we’ll see. We’ll have that negotiation and we’ll have that work itself through.”

He said any gambling legislation that passes the House would have to be “very conservative” and involve a reduction in gaming.

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UPDATE: Judge Rules Florida State Violated Seminole Gambling Compact and Allows Them to Offer Table Games through 2030

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing dealings of the exclusive gambling compact between Florida State and the Seminole Tribe. The compact granted the Seminoles exclusivity of table games in exchange for direct monetary compensation to the state. This limited table games like blackjack to their casinos, despite other state approved gambling venues existing and often expanding over the years. The case at hand involves the allowance of table games at various pari-mutuel locations since 2011. The South Florida Reporter explains:

The state of Florida’s misplay of allowing “designated player” games at racetrack card rooms has turned out to be quite fortuitous for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, but it also might provide the spark needed to goose along a long-term gambling deal statewide.

A U.S. judge ruled on Wednesday that that state violated terms of its deal with the Seminoles, which allowed the tribe exclusive rights to blackjack and other table games.

Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that when racetrack card rooms started their versions of Ultimate Texas Hold ‘em, 3-Card Poker and Texas Hold ‘em, 3-Card Poker those games cut into the $250 million annual monopoly the tribe negotiated with the state. The state has permitted banked card games since 2011, and formally approved them in 2014, Hinkle wrote.

When the compact was originally signed in 2010, the blackjack portion was for only five years. It expired in July 2015, and the Seminoles have filed suit saying the state has not negotiated in good faith.

The judges ruling viewed those card games as a direct violation of the agreement and he is allowing them to continue providing those games until 2030. An appeal of the ruling doesn’t seem likely. The South Florida Reporter continues:

“The order declares that the exception has been triggered — that the tribe may conduct banked card games for the compact’s 20-year term,” Hinkle wrote. For those lacking a calendar, that means blackjack until 2030.

Hinkle called the games, in which a player stands in for the bank, an “egregious example of the cardrooms’ attempt to evade the prohibition on banked card games.” They are offered in about half of Florida’s card rooms and take in an estimated $15 million of the state’s $147 million annual poker revenues.

Don’t look for an appeal. Hinkle’s ruling was carefully worded, and covered every point. It was almost as though he were trying to write an appeal-proof ruling, although state officials say they are reviewing it.

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New Jersey Begins a Third and Possibly Reckless Attempt at Legalized Sports Betting

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many failed attempts by the New Jersey Legislature to legalize sports betting in their state. These attempts have been opposed by all the major sports leagues, including the NFL, NBA and MLB and have been stopped at various legal levels including the Supreme Court. After four years and so many failures, its somewhat surprising that New Jersey legislators are, once again, looking for a way to become the Las Vegas sports betting of the east. An online source explains the path of past failed attempt:  

New Jersey has seen its two previous attempts to allow sports betting fail in the courts. In the first attempt, New Jersey simply passed a law allowing sports betting at casinos and racetracks in 2012. The bill was quickly challenged by the professional sports leagues which cited the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act of 1992, which prohibits sports betting.

The state challenged PASPA as unconstitutional saying it imposes on state’s rights and unfairly carves out exceptions for states that had some form of sports betting before the ban—most notably Nevada.

In losing appeals for that case, courts said New Jersey may be able to get around the ban by allowing self-regulated sports betting with no state control. That led to the second attempt which would have allowed self-regulated betting at casinos and racetracks.

But courts also struck down that law, saying that by restricting where sports betting would be allowed, the state was still regulating the practice. A federal appeals court upheld that ruling in August, leading to the state’s Supreme Court Challenge. The Supreme Court declined to hear New Jersey’s appeal of its first sports betting law.

The conclusion lawmakers have drawn from these rulings is quite surprising. They believe that the key then, is to pass a law that repeals any and all state regulation pertaining to sports gambling. The implications are not only extreme, but borderline reckless given the law would even allow children the opportunity to place sports bets. Assumptions are being made that after the rule passes new laws to shore up its short comings would be allowed. Its narrow thinking, based on the opinion of one dissenting judge, and those involved are at least seemingly aware that no one actually knows how to do it yet. The online source continues:

The bill makes clear that New Jersey is removing every prohibition or regulation of sports betting—something the federal government acknowledged the state has the power to do, supporters told the /AP/. However, the bill as stands would also mean that children could place bets as well as allow anyone to open their own sports book.

That’s why the state would likely have to add “limited restrictions” afterward, as envisioned by a federal judge who issued a dissenting opinion that sided with New Jersey.

“There have got to be things added to this,” Caputo told the /AP/. “A lot brighter people than me have worked on this and they haven’t found the ultimate answer yet.”

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Florida Counties Vote to Expand Slots but Florida Supreme Court Ruling Likely to Prevent Implementation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing impact slot machine gambling and its possible expansion has on Florida. Slot machine gambling has long been limited in Florida. Over the years, various Legislative expansions have taken place, as well as locations being legalized by constitutional amendments.   In 2010, the Florida legislature allowed counties to vote for slot machines, but only if prior approval by constitutional amendments or Florida Legislature were obtained. In this year’s election, two counties have voted to expand gambling by way of slot machines, but major hurdles still exist before such expansion can take place. Local Jacksonville Fox affiliate WOKV reports:

A major legal hurdle remains before voter-approved slot machines will be available to play in Jacksonville.

While Duval County voters resoundingly approved 2,000 slot machines for the bestbet pari-mutuel facility in Arlington, the Florida Supreme Court is still determining whether a state statute permits counties outside of South Florida to expand gambling through a referendum.

The referendum – passed with 54 percent support in the Nov. 8 general election – cites a 2004 constitutional amendment allowing slots machines at certain Miami-Dade and Broward County pari-mutuel facilities through a constitutional amendment to mean voters in Duval county have the same right.

Many believe the negative impacts of slot machines weren’t adequately represented during the election, but non the less, the Supreme Court is likely to void the results as prior approval is needed outside of just the county and the Legislature hasn’t approved the venues. WOKV continues:

The group No Casinos, an opponent of gambling expansion in Florida, says only one side of County Referendum No. 1 was represented – through millions of dollars put up by the owners of bestbet. “It’s not a full picture of what happens when slot machines come to a community,” said Paul Seago, referencing the touting of new jobs and government revenue from slot machines by proponents.

Seago believes the Florida Supreme Court will determine slot machines are only allowed in South Florida, per the state statute, or that a constitutional amendment is necessary for expansion of slot machine gaming in the state. Seago’s opposition to slot machines stems from the rejection that this form of gaming brings new revenue to cities. He says, money used on slots is actually taken away from local businesses. In the meantime, slot machines are on hold outside of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

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