Category Archives: Elected Officials

Florida goes after Pari-Mutuels as it Seeks to Enforce Designated-Player Card Games Ruling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing and developing situation regarding designated player banked card games. This form of card game was offered for four years before its legality was challenged. Last year, however, the court determined the games to be illegal and a violation of the Seminole Compact which outlined exclusive card games at Seminole casinos. As recently reported by Casino Watch Focus that ruling is being challenged in appeals court and is set to be heard next month. In the mean time, swift enforcement has begun to stop these illegal card games. An online source explains:

Florida gambling chiefs have launched legal action against two pari-mutuel venues, the Sarasota Kennel Club and Pensacola Greyhound Racing, for their alleged failure to remove so-called “designated player games” from their premises.

Meanwhile, many of Florida’s other cardrooms and racetracks are bracing themselves for similar action, as the state moves to crack down on the controversial games.

This action is especially important given litigation was dropped by the Seminole’s in exchange for the state agreeing truly enforce the courts ruling. The online source continues:

The case had initially been brought by the State against the Seminoles for their refusal to stop offering banked games once their initial five-year compact expired in 2015. But the tribe countersued over the exclusivity violation, forcing the state into a humiliating retreat. In July, both parties agreed to an end to litigation and the state vowed it would take “aggressive enforcement action” against pari-mutuels that violated the ban on the games it had previously permitted.

Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, told Sunshine State News that the state’s actions this week show it intends to live up to its word. “They’re going to come in. They’re going to check tape. They’re going to watch games being played live. And if they see anything out of compliance being done, they’re going to issue administrative complaints and fines,” he said. “So everybody is double- and triple-checking to make sure they’re in compliance.” 

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First Case of De Facto Decoupling Granted in Florida

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of those in the dog racing industry to separate the need to continue to allow races as a requisite for allowing slot machines at their facilities. Florida law stated that slot machines were only allowed in certain counties and racing facilities. The dog and horse racing industries in Florida have been struggling. Few bet on the races, the greyhound industry has come under increased scrutiny for mistreatment or drugging of their animals and its been clear that slot machines are the only real think keeping the doors open. Those involved have been attempting to remove the racing requirement so they can simply offer slot machines instead of closing the tracks down. It now appears that one venue has succeeded at getting permission to decouple. The Miami Herald explains: 

Florida gambling regulators this week gave a Miami dog track permission to ditch greyhound races but keep more lucrative slot machines and card games, in a first-of-its-kind ruling.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Wednesday granted a request from West Flagler Associates, which operates Magic City Casino in Miami, to replace dog races with jai-alai matches, as part of a drawn-out legal dispute over a controversial “summer jai-alai” permit.

It’s the first time a pari-mutuel facility has been allowed to drop dog or horse races and continue operating slots. 

This isn’t the result of new legislation or action taken by gambling administrators, as much as it is an application of an old 1980 law. But it does signal that legislators are willing to consider more wide spread decoupling legislation in future. The Miami Herald continues:

The Magic City decision is rooted in a 1980 Florida law that allows pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that have the lowest betting handle for two consecutive years to convert to summer jai-alai permits. But if those pari-mutuels do not seek conversion, other facilities can seek the permits. The Miami dog track’s lawyer, John Lockwood, first sought the summer jai-alai permit for Magic City in 2011.

After much legal wrangling, the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering denied the track’s request to do away with dog races, launch jai-alai games and keep lucrative slots that the track began operating after voters signed off on the machines in 2004. But the 3rd District Court of Appeal ordered gambling regulators to reconsider the issue.

In a declaratory statement issued Wednesday, state regulators said Florida law gives the track the green light to do away with dog races, as long as the jai-alai matches take place at the same facility where the current greyhound permit is operated.

 The agency’s decision won’t have broad implications but comes as lawmakers consider a push by gambling operators who want to do away with live dog and horse racing while holding onto slots or card rooms.

“It’s pretty clear that the department intends for this to not have any far-reaching effects, but once again, John Lockwood has masterfully used a unique set of circumstances to create a positive outcome for his client,” Scott Ross, a former deputy secretary at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation who is now a lobbyist representing other gambling operators, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Hopefully this was just legal maneuvering and the skill of a lobbyist with connections, but its best to make your opinion known to local representatives.

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Tribal Casino being pushed in Missouri has Immediate Opposition

Casino Watch Focus has reported that in Missouri, there is a cap of 13 casinos and they must be on the Missouri or Mississippi rivers. The laws have augmented over the years, but initially Missouri only allowed 2 hour river boat gambling tours. Now the casinos are full fledged casinos, not traditional paddle boats, although the still technically float on the rivers as water is pumped in under the buildings. There have been some efforts to expand gambling by attempting to amend the Missouri Constitution to allow casinos in the Branson area, but all efforts have been quickly squelched. Most recently, a trade off was made when voters removed the original $500 loss limit in exchange for a cap on the number of casinos at 13. Now, it appears new efforts have emerged in an effort to get a new form of gambling authorized in Missouri, tribal gambling. An editorial originally published in the Kansas City Star demonstrates how the Osage Nation has laid the ground work to get Gubernatorial approval for tribal gambling in Missouri:

Last December, the Osage Nation of Oklahoma wrote two checks to the Committee for a New Missouri, the dark money nonprofit set up to help pay for Gov. Eric Greitens’ January inauguration. The donations — first revealed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — totaled $52,700.

The tribe wanted a good relationship with the incoming governor, its leader said. Oh, and Osage Nation operates seven gaming casinos in Oklahoma and just might be interested in building another facility in Missouri.That facility would need the approval of Missouri’s governor. Under existing federal law, he must conclude a casino would be “in the best interest of the Indian tribe and its members” for the application to move forward.

The story clearly demonstrates why it’s so important to know where political money is coming from.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said he would support the casino if it was both good for the Osage tribe and Missourian. Rep. Jason Steelville also expressed a desire to support a new casino. However, not everyone shares those sentiments and opposition to a new casino in Missouri has already emerged. The Missouri Times explains: 

Don Hinkle, the public policy advisor for the influential Missouri Baptist Convention, editor of The Pathway, and one of the state’s most vocal evangelicals, says that the Missouri Baptist Convention would strongly oppose a casino because of the detrimental effects they believe gambling has on a society.

“Gambling is a form of economic predation. They’re predators. It benefits international corporations while opposing the lower class, the very people we need to be helping here in Missouri. Allowing casinos to prey on them is not good economics, it’s not good business, and it’s not good for Missouri. Every Missourian ought to stand up and call this out for what it is. It’s wrong, and we don’t need it in Missouri. Missouri has a great economy with great people who are willing to work.”

Hinkle says that Greitens’ response in which he said he would support it if it were good for Missouri should be taken with a grain of salt. “That’s a mighty big caveat, and I’d tend to give the governor some slack here. It doesn’t sound to me like he’s committed to it,” he said. 

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New Federal Sports Gambling Bill Emerges in Congressional Committee

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many attempts of New Jersey to legalize sports betting. The reason all of their attempts have failed is because federal law prevents states from allowing sports betting under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act and most recently, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. A new federal bill, if passed, would remove federal bans on certain gambling and allow the states to regulate them as they please, thus effectively legalizing sports betting for New Jersey and others if they so choose. An online source breaks down the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act (GAME Act):

The US Congress may consider a gambling bill that would annul a *federal gambling ban*. This, on the other hand, would allow the country to make any form of gambling legal and regulate it. 

[I]f the GAME Act is enacted, it would annul the 1992 federal law and would allow every state to separately add sports betting and online gaming to the gambling operations that are legal there. As explained above, *customer protection rules*, as well as rules about *taxation and regulations* are also implemented in the proposed piece of legislation.

Stakeholders are also allowed to give their feedback for the GAME Act. As it has already became clear, the American Gaming Association backed the legal expansion of sports betting operations. Other organizations, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) do not support the bill. 

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Threat of Massive Florida Gambling Expansion from New Gambling Bills Ends over House and Senate Differences

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of gambling expansion in Florida. Most recently, the both the Florida House and Senate passed gambling bills, but both were very different. The House bill focused on a new Agreement with the Seminole tribe and shoring up loopholes and various items. The Senate bill, however, was a full scale buffet of gambling expansion options including new casinos, new counties being allowed to offer slot machines, other various gambling expansion options. Once bills are passed, the House and Senate must come together to reconcile the various versions of the bill and produce one, agreed upon piece of legislation. The Miami-Herald is now reporting a huge victory for Florida families and this years legislative session is closing with no major gambling bill because the House and Senate were just too far apart on a unified bill:

A deal that could have allowed at least one new casino in Miami, permitted craps and roulette at the seven casinos operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and authorized slot machines in eight more Florida counties collapsed Tuesday. After months of working on competing gambling legislation, Florida House and Senate negotiators declared an impasse that had no hope of being resolved by Friday, when the Legislature was scheduled to end its annual 60-day session. “It’s dead,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

There were many reasons the deal crumbled Tuesday, but Diaz said the main problem was what to do about eight counties where voters approved slot machines at dog racing and horse racing tracks. Voters have passed a statewide referendum to allow slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward, but there has never been a statewide referendum for the other counties.

The gaming bill’s demise prevents Genting, a Malaysian company, from building a casino in Miami on the former site of the Miami Herald. The Senate plan also could have allowed the declining horse and dog racing and jai-alai industries to stop racing and operate as slot casinos exclusively.

Whereas the finalization of a compact between the State and the Seminole tribe is less than ideal and could lead to more expanded gambling in the future if the deal is handled improperly, the fact that massive gambling expansion through decoupling efforts with dog and horse race facilities, new slot machines in 8 new counties, and new casinos were avoided, it is absolutely a victory to celebrate.

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GUEST ARTICLE: [Florida] Lawmakers’ Rushed Deal to Expand Casinos in Miami is a Reckless Gamble

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida by authorizing a new, Las Vegas style, destination resort casino. As recently pointed out by the Mason-Dixon poll, the vast amount of voters, 84%, want to either hold the line or actually reduce gambling expansion. When it came to gambling expansion through new casinos, the Florida legislature has typically done as the people have asked and not expanded gambling in this measure. However, that appears to be coming to an end as House and Senate are making a deal to allow a new casino to come to Miami and they are facing huge opposition. The below article is the office Miami Herald Editorial Board position:

After years of an impasse between the House and Senate on expanding casinos in Florida, comes a sudden and unseemly rush to get the job done.

The Legislature needs to slow its roll of the dice. Legislation pushed through in a hurry, without much, if any, public notice or input, is never a good thing….

House and Senate leaders appear to be closing in on a deal to radically revamp Florida’s gambling industry and strike an agreement with the Seminole Tribe in what could be a considerable expansion of gambling throughout the state — and Miami-Dade.

The measure rightly has been met with resistance from gambling opponents. This rush toward a decision in the session’s final days to allow, among other things, a new casino in Miami-Dade has that hush-hush, backroom feel — almost always unwise, and usually at taxpayers’ expense.

Count the Editorial Board among those calling for putting the brakes on this troubling quickie deal. The Board has long opposed turning Miami-Dade into a Las Vegas-style destination — and we continue to do so. Gambling, indeed, can transform communities — often for the worse. Miami-Dade is a progressive community of great accomplishment, but one, too, that already is a magnet for too many dangerous and illicit activities. Casinos won’t help…

Among the opponents of the deal is Armando Codina, one of Miami’s most prominent developers, who told Herald/Times reporter Mary Ellen Klas that he was surprised by the sudden legislative sprint. Codina, chairman of Codina Partners, LLC, a real estate investment and development firm based in Coral Gables, has long been a critic of expanded gambling in the county.

“I’m well-informed, but this surprised me how it was snuck in without any public debate,” said Codina.

He added that while the new gambling revenue would flow to the state and county, it will cost Miami-Dade dearly, leaving the community with the kind of infrastructure and social problems that it is already hard-pressed to handle. We agree. 

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Vast Majority of Florida Voters Want to Maintain or Reduce current Gambling Levels

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling expansion attempts in Florida. Many times over the years Florida voters have had a say in the expansion of gambling in Florida, but most of the time, Florida families are at the mercy of the legislature. If the Florida House and Senate agree to expand gambling due to special interest influence, citizens and families often lack recourse other that perhaps trying to elect new officials into office. Because of such strong pro-gambling interests, an initiative petition is in the works to give the power back to the people. So what do the people of Florida think about gambling? Do they approve of the gambling expansion efforts at the State Capitol? Are they fine with all the lobbing dollars from special gambling interests flowing through the Florida Legislature? Or do they believe gambling expansion should be stopped, or even reduced? A new poll seeks answers and the results should open the eyes to legislators who are representing their constituents. Florida Politics online explains:

The vast majority of Florida voters — 84 percent— “want to reduce or hold the line on gambling” and 60 percent also “are less likely to support a candidate … that votes to expand gambling,” a new poll released Monday shows. The latest Mason-Dixon poll included questions on gambling, according to a news release from No Casinos, Florida’s anti-gambling expansion group.

The anti-expansion “feeling among Floridians carries across all regions of the state: North Florida (87 percent), Central Florida (92 percent), Tampa Bay (81 percent), Southwest Florida (84 percent), Southeast Florida (78 percent),” the release said.

“Tallahassee politicians need to get the message that only 8 percent of Florida voters want gambling expanded, and 84 percent want it left alone or reduced,” said John Sowinski, president of No Casinos. “It’s time to stop listening to gambling lobbyists and listen to the people.” In addition, he said most “Floridians don’t want their elected officials to expand gambling, because they know that more gambling hurts the quality of life for them and their families.”

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