Category Archives: Elected Officials

Guest Article:  Editorial: Florida gaming deal goes to court. One verdict is in: Lawmakers’ contempt for voters

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing sports betting saga taking place in Florida and today’s guest article on this matter is an editorial by Florida’s Finger Lake Times:  

Two Miami business leaders went to court this week in Washington, D.C., in an effort to stop the expansion of gambling in Florida — and to stand up for voters, since the Legislature and governor are doing just the opposite.

Developer Armando Codina and auto retailer Norman Braman, two of the state’s fiercest and most well-heeled gambling opponents, filed suit — along with the group No Casinos — against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. The suit accuses the federal government of allowing the state to circumvent the Florida Constitution when it approved a new gaming deal this year — including off-reservation sports betting — with the Seminole Tribe. The suit also contends that Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature violated federal laws by authorizing gambling outside of Indian lands, among other claims.

We believe there’s little doubt that lawmakers and gambling interests crafted the deal precisely to get around the 2018 constitutional amendment that voters approved — by an unheard-of 72% — that specified the electorate must determine if there are more casinos in Florida…

Unless the courts stop this deal, more casino gambling will be allowed at existing facilities. The Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock casinos in Broward and Hillsborough counties would be able to morph into full Las Vegas-style casinos with the addition of roulette and craps. No Casinos calls this the biggest gambling expansion in Florida history.

Yet, that’s not all. Even more alarming is the part of the deal where the Seminole Tribe says it won’t object to any new casino license as long as it’s at least 18 miles from its Hard Rock Casino near Hollywood.

Guess what? Both the Fontainebleau hotel and resort in Miami Beach and Trump’s National Doral Miami golf resort — both have indicated they would like to see a new law that would let them transfer a gambling license from an existing parimutuel to their properties — fall conveniently outside that magic 18-mile boundary line.

As Codina told the Herald, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how this movie is ending.”

Agreed.

The full article can be read HERE

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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt Returns Political Contributions from Illegal Gambling Machine Manufacturers Owners Amid Controversy

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of Missouri’s illegal slot machine problem.  Gambling, specifically casino style slot machine gambling, is limited to state regulated casinos in Missouri, but that hasn’t stopped companies like Torch Electronics from placing thousands of illegal slot machines all over the state.  They have used many methods for keeping their illegal gambling machine operating, including taking advantage of enforcement loopholes where the state gaming commission cant regulate them and local law enforcement jurisdictions are left to clean up the illegal slot machines.  Other tactics include attempting to sue those prosecuting them  and political contributions in hopes of controlling the legislature or the courts.  Many have called for immediate state action to provide the proper enforcement tools for uniform restriction, confiscation and prosecution of those machines and the operators and manufactures.  Amid the controversy, some have been called out as possibly being put in a compromised situation due to political contributions, specifically Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.  The St Louis Post Dispatch reports:

Attorney General Eric Schmitt is returning campaign contributions he received more than two months ago from the owner of a controversial video gambling company and his wife.

Schmitt, a Republican running for U.S. Senate in 2022, received two $2,900 checks in June from Steven Miltenberger, owner of Wildwood-based Torch Electronics, and his spouse, Sondra Miltenberger.

Torch has been in court in recent months for allegedly operating thousands of illegal slot machines at gas stations across the state. The company also is suing the state, saying it is being unfairly harassed by the Missouri Highway Patrol.

The announcement that the money was being jettisoned came after the Post-Dispatch asked the attorney general’s office if the contribution could be considered a conflict of interest because of the state’s involvement in litigation against Miltenberger’s company.

“There was no violation of office policy, but out of an abundance of caution, it’s my understanding that the donation is going to be returned,” Schmitt spokesman Chris Nuelle said Friday. “We will remain active in our vigorous defense of the state’s interest in this case.”

A spokesman for Schmitt’s campaign confirmed the contributions have been returned.

Schmitt is among dozens of Missouri politicians who have received money connected to Miltenberger in recent years as unregulated slot machines have flooded the state.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Missouri Gaming Association Presses Legislators to Step up on Illegal Slot Machine Regulation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to shut down the illegal slot machines that have popped up all over Missouri.  There have been numerous obstacles reported, but given the Missouri Gaming Commission can only regulate legal slot machines at the 13 Missouri Casinos, the legislature is in a position to pass meaningful regulation.  So far, all efforts to stop these illegal gambling machines that have swept the state have been limited to the local jurisdictions that have been willing to prosecute.  Many have called for a more uniformed and statewide approach to enforcement, including the Missouri Gaming Association.  They have praised the work of local law enforcement, but continue to press for a more comprehensive state-wide approach.  An online source reports:

The Missouri Gaming Association is calling for legislative action to stop the spread of illegal slot machines throughout the state. The association estimates there are at least 14,000 illegal machines in use statewide, a number approaching the total of 16,500 legal ones in Missouri’s 13 casinos.

Illegal slot machines aren’t exactly hiding, either, Missouri Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Winter said. Often, he said, they’re in plain sight.  “You don’t have to travel very far in the state or on a highway and stop in someplace and see one, two or more of these machines,” Winter said. 

The machines are common in gas stations, truck stops and convenience stores, but Winter said those business aren’t necessarily to blame and might not know the machines are illegal.

The association released a statement thanking the patrol for its efforts and faulting lawmakers: “The Missouri Gaming Association supports the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s investigations and recent mass seizures of illegal slot machines at Missouri gas stations, truck stops and restaurants. Because last session’s legislative efforts to address illegal slot machines in Missouri failed, the Missouri State Highway Patrol is now left to deal with the issue on their own.”

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Florida Sports Betting Legalization through Seminole Gambling Compact Officially Challenged via Lawsuits

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to pass a new gambling compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe.  An agreement has been reached, but a provision to legalize mobile sports betting by way of Seminole exclusivity has met tremendous opposition.  The most notable reason is because the Florida Constitution requires a vote of the people to expand gambling in Florida.  Those behind the agreement claim that the gambling servers are on tribal land and so even if a gambler is off the reservation, it’s still tribal gambling.  Despite the intuitive and logical notion that the gambling takes place where the gambler is located, as geolocation is a standard issue states have to deal with when offering gambling to people in their states but not across borders, this issue has been litigated and precedent would deem that the gambling takes place in both locations.  This the exact impetus behind two lawsuits that have now been filed against the compact.  An online source reports:

It seemed like only a matter of time before a lawsuit was brought against Florida’s new sports betting law  — and Friday was that day. Miami-based licensed parimutuel facility Magic City Casino and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., a poker room which also features simulcasting on sports such as horse racing, have filed a “Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief” in federal court against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The complaint claims the new law is passed in violation of federal oversight, in having the Seminole tribe offer sports betting across the entire state of Florida via use of mobile devices such as smartphones.

“[O]nline gambling, including sports betting, is illegal in Florida. The Implementing Law purports to legalize it, but only if conducted by the Tribe under the 2021 Compact. It remains illegal otherwise,” according to the 67-page brief filed by the plaintiffs.

“Pursuant to the 2021 Compact and the Implementing Law, sports bets initiated by persons located physically anywhere within Florida (or even outside the state) are ‘deemed’ to have occurred on Indian lands because the ‘servers’ and ‘devices’ purportedly receiving the bets are to be located on the Tribe’s reservation. ‘Deeming’ the bet to have been placed on Indian lands because the servers are located there contradicts decades of well-established precedent interpreting applicable federal law. Contrary to the legal fiction created by the 2021 Compact and Implementing Law, a bet is placed both where the bettor and the casino are each located.”

Federal Law does allow for gambling on tribal lands, and Congress intended for limitations, such as preventing gambling that is expressly illegal in a state.  Not only is the scope of jurisdiction for tribal gambling clear, but there is well established legal precedent for mobile/internet gambling regulation and the location of servers and computers pursuant to such gabmling.  Past precedent was clear that the gambling must take place solely on tribal land, or it would be subject to state regulation.  They conclude:

“The NIGC has consistently maintained the position that the IGRA does not provide for any form of gaming off Indian lands,” the Florida suit also states. It refers to a 2001 letter by NIGC officials in continuing, “The use of the Internet, even though the computer server may be located on Indian lands, would constitute off-reservation gaming to the extent any of the players were located off Indian lands.”

The Seminole Tribe, however, is not challenged in this lawsuit from offering any sports betting at all.

“Plaintiffs recognize that the State could compact with the Tribe to permit in person sports betting by patrons physically on its reservations. However, the State cannot circumvent its own laws or federal law in an attempt to legalize off-reservation sports betting for the Tribe only.”

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Florida’s Seminole Gambling Compact Faces Federal Approval and Many Believe Tribal Gambling Laws and the Florida Constitution make the Sports Gambling Provisions Invalid

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments in the approval of the newly negotiated Florida gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe.  While most agree the compact is a key and necessary part of balancing gambling expansion in Florida, many believe this compact has gone too far to expand gambling, most specifically in regards to statewide Sports gambling.  The Compact has been passed by the Florida Legislature and the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and now it goes before the Federal Government.  An online source explains:

The Department of the Interior oversees tribal-state gambling “compacts,” such as the one that Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. signed April 23 and sent to lawmakers for approval. Once the compact is submitted, the Department of the Interior has 45 days to approve the plan, reject it or allow it to go into effect without the federal agency’s action.

Federal officials will “look at the compact and see if there are any provisions in there that are problematic,” said George Skibine, whose lengthy career with the Department of the Interior included a stint as director of the Office of Indian Gaming.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires that covered gaming activities occur on “Indian lands,” Skibine noted. The deal with the Seminoles may turn out to be a national test case for other tribal compacts, he said.

Clearly there are past examples in other states that looked at a similar issue, and they concluded all gambling must take place on tribal land.  There are two other examples of mobile gambling involving tribal land, but both of those cases involve the tribes letting the state government handle the regulations and taxation of the gambling.  This Florida case just isn’t the same as those given that the Seminole Tribe is fully regulating sports betting and the Florida constitution currently prohibits sports betting in Florida and would require a statewide vote of the people to establish it as legal gambling.  An online source explains:

So how come Arizona and Connecticut have a clear path forward and the Seminoles do not? The key is regulatory structure.

A group of Arizona tribes and Gov. Doug Ducey announced a compact and companion legislation earlier this year that allows the tribes to open retail and online sportsbooks, among other gaming expansion options. The federal Department of the Interior has already approved the retail sportsbook components of the deal.

Critically, the compact didn’t include online betting and the tribes agreed to let Arizona government officials regulate, license and tax their online sportsbooks under a separate bill approved by the legislature.

Connecticut’s two gaming tribes and Gov. Ned Lamont announced a similar deal this year that’s now awaiting formal federal government approval. Just like Arizona’s tribes, Connecticut’s Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes agreed to separate online casino gaming and sports betting from the compact’s retail betting language.

Conversely, Florida’s compact gives the Seminoles rights to online sports betting through its own digital platform and to partner with pari-mutuel facilities for additional mobile skins. Federal law and subsequent court rulings make it seem the Seminoles don’t have authorization for online sports betting under a compact, leading many to believe federal officials will strip those provisions from the agreement.

Moreover, IGRA very clearly outlines that the gambling activity must take place on Tribal land or must be the same gambling that the state already recognizes as legal.  Some have argued that in an attempt to rush the deal, they didn’t follow current models for proper gambling compacts, and are at real risk of rejection by the Federal Government.  The source concludes:

This strict interpretation of IGRA within the language of the law and ensuing court rulings has limited gaming to physical options on tribal lands. All states that offer or have approved any form of regulated online tribal gaming, such as Arizona, Connecticut and Michigan, have done so independent of federal compacting law. Instead, these tribes maintain autonomy over in-person gaming for their brick-and-mortar gaming options and act like commercial operators for their online options.

Daniel Wallach, a Florida-based gaming attorney and sports betting legal analyst, told the Action Network the Seminoles and Florida policymakers could have followed the model established in other states. Instead, trying to shoehorn online sports betting authorization under federal law jeopardizes its very legality.

“Michigan and Arizona have acknowledged this jurisdictional limitation and crafted a solution that appears to satisfy IGRA,” Wallach said. “Florida, on the other hand, has brazenly ignored the plain and unambiguous language of IGRA, and has set up a flawed system that is on a fast track to a federal court rebuke.”

Florida’s Miami-Beach Mayor Dan Gelber was equally blunt with his rhetoric in a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior.  The Tampa Bay times provides excerpts of his letter:

“I support the goals of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (’IGRA’), namely, to provide Native American tribes with a pathway to greater independence and economic vitality. But the Florida Compact you are considering was not crafted in pursuit of those goals,” Gelber wrote in a nine-page letter to Deb Haaland, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“It was simply a vehicle hijacked by non-tribal casino interests who fully corrupted the legislative and executive process in order to obtain advantages outside of tribal land and in direct contravention to the interests of Floridians.”

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Possible new Trump Casino in Florida hits New Roadblock as Local City Bans Casinos

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the possibility of new casinos being developed in Miami Beach.  Attempts to develop full Vegas-style casino gambling establishments in the Miami area are nothing new and have typically been unsuccessful.  However, recent developments involving possible transfer of licenses has raised the alarms for those in the area.  Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber exposed the potential legislative intent and Trump’s Resort and other casino’s immediately made national headlines as one of a few possible companies to use the new Seminole Compact to extend casino gambling into new areas.  As a response to, the nearby city of Doral, the home of Trump Doral Resort, passed an ordinance to ban casinos and gambling without a full public referendum and vote.  The Miami-Herald reports:

Count Doral among the latest Miami-Dade cities to erect defenses against casino politics as the prospect of gambling — and a Trump-branded casino — creeps closer.

The Doral city council on Wednesday voted 4-0 to ban gambling and casinos from the city unless approved by residents in a referendum, weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis negotiated a $500 million gaming deal the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Critics believe the compact was tailored to allow casinos at properties such as the Trump National Doral Miami resort or the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel, which local officials fear will bring negative impacts to their communities.

The gaming deal, among other things, stops the Tribe from objecting to the transfer of existing slot machine licenses to anywhere 15 miles from its casino on Seminole land near Hollywood, language that opens the door to former President Donald Trump purchasing a license and transferring it to his Doral golf resort.

Miami Beach Mayor Gelber also took additional defensive action as there are many jurisdictions in that area that should there be a new casino push.  Of course, there are existing laws in place that would make moving a casino an enormous uphill battle, but Mayor Gelber wants to be prepared.  The Miami-Herald concluded:  

Local gambling bans alone may not be enough. Miami Beach, which banned casinos in 2017 retained law firm Shubin & Bass to help fend off any attempts from the Legislature to bring gambling to the city.

Mayor Dan Gelber said the city is wary that state lawmakers may try to pass a bill that preempts a local governments’ ability to ban gambling. “We’re not waiting for it to happen before we hire someone,” Gelber told the Miami Herald Tuesday, speaking about the decision to hire Shubin & Bass.

He said the state’s recently approved sports gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe clears a path for Jeffrey Soffer, the owner of the Fontainebleau to transfer his casino license from The Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach.

“Obviously the fact that the 15-mile barrier was included in the compact is a pretty good expression of the intent of the governor and Legislature to give him what he wants,” said Gelber, who wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior asking that the government reject the gambling deal.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Experts warn that Florida’s Seminole Gambling Compact Introduces Massive Gambling Expansion, but Leaves Problem Gamblers without Vital Resources

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to secure a new gambling compact between the Seminole Tribe and the Florida Government.  Recently a new compact was agreed upon and has been approved by the Florida Legislature and Governor.  If the bill makes it past federal approval, it represents a massive expansion in gambling.  Despite the normal political battles that such legislation brings, three is a serious health element that experts warn is being completely overlooked.  Aid for compulsive gamblers wasn’t addressed in the compact or the special legislative session that pushed the compact through.  This is of dire concern for problem gambling experts.  Florida Politics reports:

While the Legislature pushed through the Seminole Compact and gambling bills to support it, the matter of dealing with compulsive gambling drew alarm, debate, promises, but no action.

“If the Compact survives scrutiny at the federal level and the legal challenges, this is going to be a major expansion of gaming opportunities in the state of Florida, just in the sports betting alone,” said *Richard* *Pinsky*, a lobbyist for the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. “Florida is not prepared right now for the impact that it will have upon families and individuals.”

Florida’s main response, through the Council, is a gambling prevention program helpline, 1-888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848). Set up initially to assist compulsive gamblers in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, it is woefully unprepared to handle statewide action; it was never fully funded even for its intended purpose. “I can show you the actual transcripts (of calls) that would wrench your heart,” Pinsky told a House committee last week. 

Pinsky warned that “thousands and thousands” of Floridians will fall into compulsive gambling problems. And he believes that will grow fastest among younger generations. “The younger demographic, that’s exactly who does sports wagering and fantasy sports,” Pinsky said. “College students and those under 30. And they’re also the most at-risk group.”

Florida’s gambling prevention program has not been updated since 2005 when it was initiated as a response to the legalization of slot machines in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Guest Article: Missouri Draws Criticism for failing to pass Smoking Ban at Casinos during Global Pandemic

Casino Watch Focus has reported on local and nationwide efforts to institute smoking bans at casinos during the pandemic.  Not only is this a very clear way to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, it also offers many other health benefits to those that frequent casinos.  As such, efforts were taken to bring the matter up to the Missouri Gaming Commission.  As one Southwestern editorial notes however, the Commission has instead chosen to gambling with public health…

When the COVID-19 pandemic quickly spread last year, a number of businesses, including casinos, temporarily shut down.

Consistent with developing health protocols for re-opening, such as frequent disinfection of surfaces, requiring face masks, and providing hand sanitizer stations, over 140 casinos in 23 states also prohibited smoking. Managers recognized face masks were of little value if smokers pull them down while smoking. Several managers also recognized the public health risk of exposing people to secondhand smoke. So, what about Missouri?

Sadly, not one Missouri casino adopted this health measure. Even so, Section 313.812.14 of the state gaming law requires the Missouri Gaming Commission to take punitive action against a casino licensee that acts or fails to act in a manner that is “injurious to the public health.”

In May of 2020, the gaming commission was asked to give attention to this clause. This request was accompanied with information about long established medical science that exposure to secondhand smoke is a causal factor for heart attack, lung cancer, emphysema and stroke.

Also provided was a report that found air quality in Missouri casinos rated as “unhealthy” and a study that found a nearly 20 percent reduction in medical emergencies when smoke-free policies were implemented across the 26 casinos in Gilpin County, Colorado.

That secondhand smoke is dangerous to employees and patrons should not be news to the commission. In 2009, the National Council of Legislators from Gambling States, of which Missouri is a member, adopted a resolution in support of smoke-free gaming venues. This resolution encouraged state gaming commissions to adopt smoke-free policies as a prerequisite for issuing or renewing licenses.

The commission chose not to discuss the matter… An open records request revealed an email from the attorney stating the commission chair’s position was that their primary mission is to regulate gambling activity facilities in the state and, therefore, is not interested in pursuing a smoking policy for casinos.

Whether a primary mission or not, the law is clear in stating a casino licensee “shall be”, not “may be” subject to punitive measures for “any act or failure to act … that is injurious to the public health.” The law stipulation of “shall be” means this is not a discretionary option for the commission, but a mandated requirement to act in the interest of public health.

Commission data indicates over 7,700 employees in Missouri casinos.

These employees deserve a safe workplace environment free of air pollutants known to cause heart disease and cancer, especially when this exposure is so easily prevented. Sadly, these employees would likely be subjected to retaliation if they spoke up (e.g. have hours cut, be re-assigned to less desirable work shifts, be passed over for raises or promotions, be laid off, etc.).

Thus, they have no voice regarding a totally preventable risk to their health, leaving them the hard choice between a paycheck or their health.

The commission not only has the statutory authority, but also the statutory mandate to protect the public health. Their dereliction of duty endangers the health of employees and patrons by needlessly exposing them to secondhand smoke, a known cause for heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and strokes.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Florida Legislature Approves Seminole Gambling Compact, Legalizing Mobile Sports Betting, and Many in Florida aren’t Happy

Casino Watch Focus has reported closely followed the recent advancement of the Seminole Gambling Compact and its inclusion of mobile sports betting.  The issue at stake is the legislator attempting to expand gamblining in violation of the Florida constitution, which requires a vote of the people to approve new gambling.  With the writing on the wall, many have made their positions known and now its all but official, as the Compact has passed the legislature and simply needs Gov. DeSantis’ signature, which will be forthcoming.  Not all believe it will pass, and many are speaking out.  The Orlando Sentinel’s Editorial Board outlined the opposition position:

The Florida Legislature just passed a gambling law they /know/ has a good chance of being struck down in court, or at least the sports betting part of the law that got the most attention.

You don’t have to believe us. Take it from state Rep. Randy Fine, who led the House Select Committee on Gaming and said this about sports betting after the bill passed: “Me personally, I don’t think it’s going to survive.”

The reason Fine made such an extraordinary concession on the House floor is because of the high likelihood that, under Florida’s constitution, sports betting needs to be approved by Florida’s voters, not elected legislators.

He didn’t say it, but there’s also a decent chance the bill’s legalization of craps and roulette games at Florida’s existing casinos also will be challenged in court and found unconstitutional. Same for the part that lays the groundwork for transferring gambling licenses from race tracks to other locations.

The problem in this case is that both sides seemed to ignore the clear language of the Florida Constitution, with some clearly just moving the bill along assuming that the courts would take care of the issue.  The lack of serious debate around the constitutionality of the issue has also brought the ire of those who believe the will of the constitution and the people shouldn’t be disregarded in such a cavalier manner.  The Editorial Board continues:

In 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment — by a remarkable 71.5% margin — that gave voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.” That means putting the question of additional gambling in front of the voters and letting /them/ say yes or no.

The language of that amendment clearly states the referendum requirement applies to what’s known as Class III gambling, and sports betting is defined under federal law as Class III gambling. So are craps and roulette. So, these things need voter approval to become part of Florida’s gambling landscape.

That single, central issue should have been a hotly debated point of this week’s three-day special session to approve a new gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe. In an astonishing display of bipartisan disregard for the will of Florida’s voters, the House passed gambling expansion Wednesday by an overwhelming vote of 97-17 with loads of Democrats jumping on the Republican-led bandwagon. Tuesday’s Senate vote was even more lopsided: 38-1. The lone no vote came from Pinellas County Republican Jeff Brandes.

Is it any wonder the public is so cynical about politics? Were voters really not clear in 2018 about what they wanted? What the governor and Legislature have done is cooked up a deal they know is constitutionally suspect, and now the courts will have to clean up the mess they’ve made.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Sports Betting in Florida via Seminole Compact to be Challenged in Court upon Passage, but can a Challenge Survive the Politics of the Deal?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the efforts to pass a new Seminole gambling compact in Florida and on the various attempts to legalize sports betting.  Now, the new Seminole compact has become the avenue for sports betting and if ratified by the Florida legislature in a special session, would become legal in the state.  Should that happen, legal challenges are essentially guaranteed.  The issue at hand is that sports betting would not simply be offered on Seminole property, which could be argued isn’t Florida proper and thus not under the recently passed Amendment 3 which requires all new gambling to be approved by a vote of the people, but instead all over the state via mobile gambling.  At that point it’s fairly clear that the gambling is happening in Florida and thus subject to a vote of the people prior to becoming low.  As previously explained, the State believes that because the servers for the mobile gambling are on tribal lands, its not in Florida.  However, as previously reported, a federal lawsuit regarding a similar issue in California concluded that gambling must be legal both where it originates and where the person gambling is located.  No Casinos, who released an ad campaign reminding everyone of the law, outlines why they plan to bring a legal challenge and why its argument is backed by various laws.  An online source explains:

No Casinos argues the arrangement runs counter to a couple of federal laws.

The Federal Wire Act holds, Sowinski said, “that a telephonic or electronic or online transaction of any sort occurs in two places: the place where the person originating the transaction is and the place where the person receiving the transaction is. It has to be legal in both of those places in order to be a legal transaction. That includes gambling, as well.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act holds that tribes can’t offer games not otherwise legal within a state. The compact would legalize sports betting on the Seminole land, Sowinski acknowledged, but he insisted allowing play statewide implicates Amendment 3 and would require a statewide referendum.

“The Legislature doesn’t have the authority to authorize that today within the state, and therefore, according to federal law, they can’t negotiate to put that on the tribal land,” Sowinski said.

The concern, of course, is that the language that allows for negotiations of a gambling compact in the first place, supersedes the provisions in those particular laws.  If that part of the argument does produce a court ruling that pushes that provision to the people for a vote, it’s believed that the case would be appealed, and then the local and national politics of the deal come into play.  If that’s the case, the federal precedent established in the federal case in CA requiring that the gambling in question must take place where both parties have the legal ability to do so, might not be much help in the end.  The source concludes:

Even if a trial judge buys the No Casino argument, the state could appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which is packed with Donald Trump appointees (including two DeSantis had earlier placed on the Florida Supreme Court but whom Trump promoted), will certainly overrule, Jarvis predicted.

“And the U.S. Supreme Court, of course, is a Trump-appointed court. Trump has made it clear that he wants this deal. DeSantis has made it clear that he wants this deal.”

Federal agencies too, including the Department of the Interior (DOI), headed by Native American Deb Haaland, and its Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), also are going to accept the deal, he predicts.

The California case set federal precedent and the newly passed Florida Amendment 3 to the constitution shows clear intent by the voters to want to approve new gambling in the state, which would clearly include mobile sports betting.  Most believe the compact will get ratified, so time will tell how the legal challenges will shake out.  

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Missouri Legislature Shuts Down Massive Gambling Expansion Bills, but Illegal Gambling Machines remain Status Quo

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many efforts to expand gambling in Missouri and the efforts to shut down and remove all the illegal slot machines that have popped up in the state.  Various bills were introduced in both the Missouri House and Senate that address items from legalizing sports gambling to actually legalizing these slot machines outside of regulated casinos.  One bill, however, was trying to make them expressly illegal, although any slot machine outside of the casino is already illegal, and it’s really more of allowing the proper regulating bodies the ability to enforce.  For those hoping to keep gambling from expanding in Missouri, the state legislature coming to a close with none of those bills passing is positive news.  However, there are those upset that the opportunity to more definitely shut those machines down this year has also come to an end.  The key takeaway is that the current laws clearly make the machines illegal, and individual Missouri jurisdictions are free to continue to prosecute at will.  Additionally, attempts to simply “regulate” those machines, and thus allow them to become legal, have also been hindered.  An online source reports all the expanded gambling that was prevented:

The Missouri Senate has defeated a three-pronged effort to expand gambling in Missouri while suppressing unregulated devices that offer cash prizes to players.

The bill debated Tuesday would have:

• Authorized up to 10,000 video game terminals in bars and truck stops as well as fraternal and veterans’ organizations. No location could have more than five machines.

• Allowed the Missouri Gaming Commission to license the state’s 13 casinos to offer sports wagering.

• Revised laws on illegal gambling to remove any uncertainty about the legality of what are called “gray market” machines.

The vote that defeated the bill may have been the last chance this legislative session to address the proliferation of devices that some prosecutors have attacked as illegal and that others have refused to file charges over.

Illegal slot machines will continue to persist in Missouri until more action is taken.  Even though the law does allow for prosecutions, most locations simply haven’t enforced the law.  Most retailers think the machines are legal and it will likely take future legislation to help end the problem for good.  The source concludes:

Of the 190 probable cause statements – requests for charges based on a particular set of facts – sent to prosecutors by Missouri State Highway Patrol investigators in 2019 and 2020, only 26 cases alleging illegal ngambling, including eight felony charges, were filed.

“Our experts, and the Highway Patrol, would say that it functions as a slot machine,” [Prosecuting Attorney Shiante McMahon]  said. “That meets the burden under the statute that it is an unlawful gambling machine.”

The legislation to remove any ambiguities in state law is a top priority of Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan. The machines arrive with stickers on them declaring they do not violate state gambling laws, and convenience store owners are reaping large profits.

Hoskins’ bill would have given retailers 10 days to remove the machines once they are notified that they are operating illegal gambling devices. Schatz said he thinks that would be enough to persuade most retailers to remove the machines. “I think a lot of these store owners have been sold a bill of goods,” Schatz said.

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New Florida Seminole Gambling Compact Reached, but the Inclusion of Sports Betting is Sure to Elicit Legal Challenges

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the years long attempts and finalizing a new gambling agreement between Florida and the Seminole Nation.  It would appear the long awaited agreement has finally been reached, but it will still need to be ratified in a special legislative session before it becomes law.  The Orlando Fox Affiliate reports:

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe finalized a 30-year gambling agreement on Friday, inking a deal that would deliver at least $2.5 billion to Florida over the next five years in exchange for giving the tribe control over statewide sports betting. Tribal leaders, including Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., joined DeSantis in his Tallahassee office for a ceremonial signing of the deal, known as a “compact.”

“We truly believe that this is the best deal for everybody. It’s not in favor of the tribe or the state. It’s in favor of both parties, because this is a long-lasting team,” Osceola said. DeSantis noted Friday that the agreement, which requires approval by the Legislature, would allow the state to capitalize on online sport betting.

Although many are pleased to finally see a new compact agreement reached, those who oppose see the compact as a legislative overreach, as it expands gambling without a vote of the people. Florida Voters overwhelmingly passed an amendment that requires all gambling expansion in Florida to be approved by the voters.  Fox continues:   

But John Sowinski, the campaign manager of the political committee behind the amendment, said sports betting and several other provisions in the proposed compact, which would allow the Seminoles to add craps and roulette to their current casino operations, run afoul of the Constitution.

The amendment, which was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters, “requires voter approval for any new casino gambling,” Sowinski said Friday in a prepared statement.

“That includes sports gambling, player designated games, craps, roulette, moving slot machine permits, and any other form of Class III gambling,” he said, referring to federal law classifications of tribal gaming. “The proposed compact violates the letter and spirit of Amendment 3. We call on the governor and our legislators to honor the will of the people, who demanded that any new casino gambling authorization occur at the ballot box, not behind closed doors in Tallahassee.”

Gov. DeSantis said he is willing to vicariously defend the agreement, claiming that this gambling is not in Florida, as Amendment 3 covers, but the sovereign land of the Seminole Tribe.  The agreement also allows for mobile gambling, which would clearly take place by people off the reservation and on actual public land.  Gov. DeSantis claims that because the servers are on tribal land, there is no violation.  However, a similar case was heard in CA and it could hurt that very argument.  An online source explains:

They would also have to argue that statewide mobile betting, accessible to gamblers outside the Seminole reservations, does not constitute gambling expansion in the state because servers are located on Seminole land.

This potentially conflicts with a 2016 federal court ruling against the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel When, in 2014, the Nation launched an online bingo site in California on the grounds that bets were being processed on its territory, they were swiftly sued by the State of California and the federal government. Ultimately, the court ruled “a bet must be legal both where it is initiated and where it is received.”

It may never come to that. While the bill has the backing it needs in the Senate, support is less assured in the House, which has become a graveyard for gambling expansion bills in recent years.

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Proposed Florida Legislation Seeks to Expand Gambling Through Various Decoupling Efforts

Casino Watch Focus has reported on various efforts to expand gambling in Florida through a process known as decoupling.  Currently most gambling in Florida is either through tribal casinos or allowed at facilities that complement live horse and dog racing.  Decoupling occurs when those two items no longer need be paired in order for the gambling to be legalized.  A facility could get a gambling permit for slot machines, but not need to have the dog or horse racing.  Florida voters passed an Amendment that made live greyhound racing illegal.  Those facilities have other gambling on-site and the issue of whether they can be decoupled has been contemplated.  A new set of bills have been introduced that seeks to decouple the greyhound industry but also expand gambling through decoupling other gambling activities as well.  Florida Politics explains:

The House Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would decouple casino gambling permits not just from dog racing tracks that are out of business but from jai alai frontons and harness racing tracks as well.

PCB 21-05, introduced by Republican Rep. Chris Latvala, is one of three gaming-related proposed committee bills introduced Wednesday in the Commerce Committee. Chair Rep. *Blaise Ingoglia* advised they were being floated only as just-in-case measures, should the Legislature take up gambling in this Session. Another bill, PCB 21-03, would create a Florida Gaming Control Commission and give it broad oversight and enforcement authority over Florida gaming. A third bill, PCB 21-04, would exempt some of the commission’s records from public records. 

Those two bills flew through the Commerce Committee with little discussion and no opposition. PCB 21-05 drew heated debate. It deals with the aftermath of Florida voter approval of a greyhound racing ban in 2018. Those dog tracks are closed or closing, but some still have game rooms. But Florida law says those game rooms must be coupled with pari-mutuel operations, and the racing is gone. The bill would decouple greyhound track companies’ casinos from the race tracks. Yet the bill extends the same decoupling to jai alai frontons, which nearly are gone in Florida, and to harness racing tracks, which supports the quarter horse community.

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As UK legislators look to update the Gambling Act 2005, a new Study Shows Loot Boxes Lead to Problem Gambling and Should be Regulated Accordingly

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing awareness of just how addictive gambling-esque loot boxes are to children and adults who play video games.  This gaming mechanic has emerged as a highly addictive form of gambling that more and more jurisdictions are acknowledging.  As recently reported,  the UK is open to the possible regulation of loot boxes as its reviewing and updating their main regulatory backbone, theGambling Act 2005.  As those review efforts are coming to a close, a new report draws a clear link between loot boxes and problem gambling. The Guardian reports: 

Analysis revives calls for in-game rewards to be classed as betting products to protect children. Loot boxes, video game features used by nearly 40% of children, have clear links to problem gambling, according to a study that has reignited calls for them to be regulated as betting products.

Researchers analysed 13 studies into the behaviour of gamers who spend on loot boxes which allow players to spend money on randomised in-game rewards that can aid players’ progress or enhance the appearance of characters, without knowing what they will get. All but one of the studies showed a clear correlation between the use of loot boxes and problem gambling behaviour, under the commonly-used Problem Gambling  Severity Index (PGSI) measure.

They were “structurally and psychologically akin” to gambling, the report found, yet are used by nearly half of children who play video games. Approximately 5% of loot box users generate half of the £700m that video games companies make from them each year and about a third of that group are problem gamblers, the report says.

This group contends that this analysis should be heavily considered by lawmakers when deciding which gambling regulations can best help the public.  The Guardian continues:

GambleAware, the leading gambling charity that commissioned the report,

also backed tighter regulation. “[…] We are increasingly concerned that gambling is now part of everyday life for children and young people,” said the chief executive Zoë Osmond. “GambleAware funded this research to highlight concerns around loot boxes and problem gambling, ahead of the upcoming Gambling Act review.

Researchers from the Universities of Plymouth and Wolverhampton, who wrote the report, called for clear labelling and age-rating for loot boxes, as well as disclosure of odds, tools to limit spending voluntarily and prices in real currency.

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Miami Beach Mayor Worried about New Casinos Being Discussed in Backdoor Meetings, but Could a New Trump Casino or Other Really Come to Fruition?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing attempts to expand gambling via a new Vegas-Style casino in the Miami area.  Most attempts are geared toward establishing new casinos, but now discussions are underway that seek to transfer existing licenses to new jurisdictions.  Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is speaking out in hopes of bringing the process to light.  The Miami-Herald reports:

Republican leaders in Tallahassee are quietly considering an effort to allow casino owners to transfer gambling licenses to venues in locales that have banned gaming and preempt local restrictions, setting up a fight between cities, anti-gaming forces and state lawmakers in Florida, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber warned Wednesday.

Gelber raised his concerns during the city’s commission meeting, saying that private conversations in Tallahassee could lead to legislation that would allow for a casino at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel. Jeffrey Soffer — who owns the Fontainebleau and the Big Easy Casino in Broward County — has pushed for years to allow for gambling at his Beach resort.

Gelber also alluded to efforts by Genting Group, which owns the former Miami Herald bayfront property near downtown Miami, to build a casino resort. Also Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that the Trump Organization is lobbying for legislation in Tallahassee that would allow for a casino at the Trump National Doral Miami.

“This is a very frightening moment,” Gelber said, later telling the Miami Herald that “the measure … is going to first help give it to the Fontainebleau, and then one of those other two locations.”

Speculation grew about a Trump Casino in particular, but just how likely is it that they could expand the casino business in Florida at this time?  A deep dive by an online casino trade source indicates its not very like, and some obstacles exist for other casino companies as well:

The troubles facing former President Donald Trump’s faltering business empire were well documented by /Bloomberg News/ this week. Jumping back into the casino industry, however, probably isn’t the most viable solution that would be offered up by Trump’s creditors. They are owed some $590 million in loans that come due over the next few years.

Based on Trump’s gaming industry track record, bankruptcy lawyers could be the only group excited by news reports that he may be eyeing a casino for his struggling Trump National Doral golf club near Miami. However, Florida’s Seminole Indian Tribe, Disney Corp., and the state constitution block the path for another Trump gaming enterprise.

Together, the Seminoles and Disney have spent millions of dollars defeating Florida gaming expansion efforts. In 2018, they threw their considerable weight behind the passage of Amendment 3, which changed the state constitution. Casino-style gambling can’t be expanded away from tribal lands unless it is approved in a statewide ballot measure that earns at least 60% support.

Republican legislators in Florida are reportedly considering a bill that would allow the gaming-license transfer process. But the idea has drawn opposition from the anti-gaming lobby. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the Associated Press that the governor and legislative Republicans would have to choose between “loyalty to Trump or loyalty to their constituents.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may be a Trump ally, but who is going to bet against the Seminoles, Disney, and the constitution? Even if Trump were to acquire a gaming license, good luck financing a casino deal.

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