Category Archives: Gambling Venues

Miami Casino Plans that Were Halted Look for Life in Lawsuit Against the City

Casino Watch Focus has reported on past efforts of Magic City Casino to built gambling facilities in Miami. Most efforts, including the many attempts by Genting grouphave been shut down, and this was no different. In this case, Magic City Casino was looking to open a jai alai fronton and poker room in the Edgewater neighborhood, however, zoning law changes stopped the project and expansion of gambling in Miami. Now, West Flagler Associates, the parent company to Magic City Casino is suing the city for not only the lost money that was invested in the project, but the right to continue with the original gambling expansion plan. An online source reports:

A court has given West Flagler Associates, Ltd., owner of Miami’s Magic City Casino, the go-ahead to proceed with its lawsuit against the city of Miami. West Flagler sued the city in April of this year for $750,000 after the city’s commission altered the zoning code for gambling venues. The date for the proceedings was set for May 2020.

The lawsuit is the result of a zoning law change approved in September 2018 by the city’s commissioners. In a 4-1 vote, the commissioners passed a new rule that would require four of the five commissioners to approve any new gambling locations.

West Flagler is seeking upwards of $750,000 plus the right to build its gaming establishment. The company argues that it announced its plans when the zoning rules allowed for pari-mutuel betting in the area and had been given written approval by the city. The rules were still in place when West Flagler received its permit.

The primary reason for the zoning adjustments was to limit gambling in the city. It was clear those in the community didn’t want to see the expansion in their neighborhood, and they city commissioners agreed. The source continues:

Commissioner Ken Russell said that he had heard from many local residents who opposed a gaming establishment in or near their neighborhood.“We don’t need gambling in the city of Miami,” auto magnate Norman Braman told the Herald “We’re doing very well without it. Gambling is a parasite, and this is an invasion.”

“As a resident of that neighborhood, I don’t believe it’s a bad thing for the neighborhood,” Havenick countered. “This will be a good attraction. It is not going to be anything more than poker and jai-alai. We’ve said that all along. It is not a casino. It’s simply poker in an area that has many other forms of entertainment, and this is another form of that.”

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Missouri’s Illegal Gambling Machines are Hurting Public Education Funding

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the on going issue of illegal gambling machines cropping up all over Missouri. These machines are essentially unregulated slot machines in areas outside of Missouri’s regulated casinos. Enforcement issues have been cited, as no one seems to be responsible for shutting them down. This has lead to their proliferation and only now are lawmakers starting to notice.

One of the bigger issues being reported is how money is being syphoned away from public educating funding. Gambling money being used to fund public education is already a troubling proposition, as it general boils down to a shell game of transferred money. Essentially the state has a budget for education. Then a tax on gambling is proposed, normally in exchange for expanded gambling, and a specified amount is then transferred to education. The problem is the original budget is almost always reduced or set in anticipation of the gambling money. It’s rarely ever an actual increase in funding for public education. So it/s even more critical that the expected revenues are collected as the state has made itself reliant on such gambling funds. Now that these gambling machines are spreading and pulling people away from legal, regulated and taxed gambling facilities, and state lottery sales, its public education that’s taking a hit. An online source explains: 

The Missouri Lottery’s executive director testified Thursday in Jefferson City that illegal slot machines are hurting public education in the Show-Me State. Illegal slot machines can be found in bars, restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores.

Scheve Reardon testified during a 90-minute hearing before the House Special Interim Committee on Gaming, which is chaired by State Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial. Shaul tells the audience that illegal slot machines cost Missouri education at least $50 million last year. He says the alleged illegal slot machines are hurting the Lottery, thereby impacting classrooms.

“The (Missouri) Lottery is losing revenue here, because of these alleged illegal machines. So are the (Missouri’s 13) casinos, so is everybody across that’s funding the state. The state is losing money because of these,” says Shaul. Thursday’s hearing was the committee’s second in two weeks. The Missouri Gaming Commission testified before the committee on August 22, saying the state needs a coordinated effort to stop the illegal machines.

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UPDATE: Genting’s Miami Monorail Casino Plan Opposed by Mayor and Florida Senators Rubio and Scott

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of Genting to build and operate a Vegas style destination casino in Miami Florida. None of their efforts have found legs, so they are attempting a most usual Hail Mary. They are working to bid on and fully construct a tax payer monorail system that would connect people across the bay to Miami. The Miami-Dade commissioners voted to open a bid process, but it was clear the already proposed Genting plan would be positioned ahead of any possible new proposals.   It seems extremely clear that the ulterior motive to gain the political favor to get their casino plan passed. That alone has local lawmakers concerned with the project, but additional security concerns against given the companies ties to foreign entities in China. As a result, new measures are being pushed forward by local lawmakers, and they have the backing of Florida Senators Mark Rubio and Rick Scott. The Miami Herald reports: 

When Miami-Dade invites companies to bid on a transit link between Miami and Miami Beach, the county could tell Chinese train makers not to bother.

A rule embedded in draft bid documents proposed by Mayor Carlos Gimenez would bar participation by Chinese train and bus companies, a prohibition that goes to the heart of a monorail proposal by casino giant Genting to use China’s BYD as its rail partner.

The move follows backlash to BYD’s possible role in building a new transit system for Miami-Dade, including warnings from Florida’s two Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, of potential security issues. Armando Ibarra, a lobbyist and head of Miami’s Young Republicans group, led a campaign to block BYD, including funding a poll aimed at showing a lack of support in Miami-Dade.

Its very clear that the point of their involvement is get a casino plan authorized, so simple opposition on that level is enough and a fair counter. But those involved stress the security concerns are real and need to be evaluated. The issue isn’t something fabricated in this instance to stop the deal either, its roots stem from federal legislation and security concerns. The Miami Herald continues: 

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is an anti-gambling activist who objected to the monorail proposal for linking a transit system to a property where Genting wants to build a casino resort. While his objections to the Genting plan centered on gambling, the former Democratic lawmaker said the anti-China legislation — sponsored by Rubio in the Senate — addressed a valid worry.

“While foreign has its place, I get the concern” about security risks from Chinese firms, Gelber said. “It’s not a fictional concern.” 

BYD is already a player in U.S. transit as a supplier of electric buses and is pursuing rail projects across the country. The bid framework, subject to County Commission approval on Sept. 4, would require proposers to comply with aU.S. House bill designed to bar and other Chinese firms from supplying trains or buses — known as “rolling stock” — for new transit projects in the United States.

“If anyone uses rolling stock from China, it’s not allowed,” Gimenez said in a brief interview Thursday. The proposed Miami-Dade rule follows the language of House Bill 5515, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2019, and would be in effect even if the federal legislation doesn’t pass, administration officials said

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Missouri Legislators Finally Discussing Ways to Enforce and Eliminate Illegal Gambling Machines Across the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the worrisome issue in Missouri of illegal slot machines popping up across the state in non-licensed locations such as gas stations and the even worse possibility of legislators contemplation making slot machines legal outside of casinos. However, the concern rose over such a massive expansion of gambling has now shifted to enforcement methods to eliminate illegal slot machines. So far it seems to be the responsibility of local prosecutors as the Gaming Commission can only enforce regulated, legal gambling. An online source explains: 

After years of inaction by Missouri lawmakers, the push may be on to take aim at the tens of thousands of illegal slot machines spreading across the state. In the first meeting of a special House committee formed to address gambling laws in the state, the chairman of the panel said he believes Missourians want to unplug the illegal terminals, which have popped up in gas stations, taverns and convenience stores. 

The Missouri Gaming Commission has deemed the terminals as “gambling devices,” which are prohibited outside of Missouri’s 13 licensed casinos. But, there is little agreement on how to control their spread. The Missouri Gaming Commission says it can only police establishments that have bingo licenses. And the Missouri Department of Public Safety, which oversees liquor licenses, says it cannot crack down on the machines because of a court ruling in 2000 that found the agency has no authority to seize gambling devices. For now, it appears most of the work to crack down on the machines is on the backs of the state’s 115 county prosecutors, a process which Rep. Dirk Deaton, R-Noel, called “cumbersome.”

However, it seems that many Missouri legislators believe its time to find a statewide solution to the problem, although many interests are in play. An online source explains: 

David Grothaus, executive director of the gaming commission, urged lawmakers to find a statewide solution. “What the state needs is a very focused effort on these illegal machines,” Grothaus told the panel. Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, said she knows of at least five locations within her district where illegal terminals are located. “It blows my mind that they are that blatant,” said Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City. “These illegal machines are everywhere. I have several of them in my district,” Shaul added. Shaul said some of the blame for the situation lies with the Legislature.

Finding a solution could be a tough sell when lawmakers gather for their annual session in January because of the varied interests involved in the debate.

Casino operators are opposed to legalizing the machines because they could cut into their profits. Casinos also want to begin taking wagers on sporting events, but the terminal operators don’t want to allow that without getting the ability to operate legally.

Among the companies linked to the spread of illegal gambling is Torch Electronics, which is managed by Steve Miltenberger of Wildwood. The company has hired a team of well-connected lobbyists and has pumped at least $20,000 in contributions to a campaign committee raising money for Gov. Mike Parson. Miltenberger, who previously worked for video gambling companies in Illinois, where they have been taxed and regulated since 2012, has placed video terminals in businesses across Missouri over the past year. 

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UPDATE: DOJ to Files Intent to Appeal Wire Act Court Ruling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing battle to properly regulate online gambling through the Wire Act. The Wire Act’s long standing language and interpretation limited online gambling, yet the Obama Administration claimed it only applied to sports betting, thus freeing the way for all other forms of online gambling. The current Administration reversed that puzzling interpretation and declared the Wire Act applied beyond sports betting. Recently, a US District Court upheld the Obama Administration interpretation, and the DOJ asked Attorney’s General to hold off enforcement until the issue could be properly vetted. An online source reports: 

The DOJ in 2011 had stated that the Wire Act applied only to sports wagering. But it *reversed course with a memo from 2018 expanding the possible reach for federal prosecution, which triggered worries about its applicability to online gambling, lotteries, and other forms of gaming that potentially cross state lines.

The New Hampshire District judge had forecast that the case would likely reach the*US Supreme Court*. While the case is going on, the DOJ has said it would not enforce the new interpretation of the Wire Act until 2020.

The *Department of Justice* filed its intent to appeal a district court decision on the Wire Act to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. In June, a federal judge in the New Hampshire District ruled that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting, and not to other forms of interstate gaming.

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Missouri Prosecutors Advance Lawsuit to Shutdown Illegal Gambling Machines Popping Up Across the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a recent gambling expansion proposal in Missouri that would legalize slot machines outside of casinos. Currently, legalized gambling in Missouri is limited to a set number of licensed and regulated casinos that exist along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The proposal would be an unprecedented expansion in gambling, as it would allow slot machines virtually anywhere in the state. However, the state is currently seeing similar expansion due to illegal gambling machines that operate exactly as these proposed slot machines would. These machines are popping up all over Missouri and the manufacture claims they are not slot machines because the reveal the result of the next spin to the player. These machines act exactly like the pre-reveal machines Florida had to deal with recently and the courts quickly called them out as illegal slot machines. It’s very clear that even though the initial spin shown is your outcome, it’s the spin after that the gambler is paying to see. Players are simply paying in advance and the subsequent outcomes are all a matter of chance. It is a slot machine through and through and a Platte County prosecutor is cracking down on these machines through a new lawsuit that seeks to get clarification by the court. An online source explains:

They look like slot machines, but they aren’t inside a casino.

Video gambling machines have been popping up across Missouri, including in St. Joseph, which has led one prosecutor to file criminal charges to stop their spread. Integrity Vending LLC, based in Kansas, currently faces one felony county of promoting gambling in Platte County.

“In Missouri, games of chance are illegal,” Eric Zahnd, the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney said. “These machines, according to the manufacturer, reveal whether or not you’ll win the next round of the game so they allege that it’s not a game of chance.”

“However to continue to play you have to play through those losing rounds,” Zahnd said.

The legal question that a judge must resolve is whether or not the machines constitute a game of chance, like a slot machine or video poker game. According to Zahnd, the company who distributed the machines, Integrity Vending LLC, has agreed to remove the machines if they’re determined to be illegal. 

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UPDATE: Court Strikes Down DOJ’s Wire Act Ruling – Appeal Likely to Follow

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Department of Justice’s Wire Act interpretation as it relates to online gambling. Prior to the Obama Administration, the Wire Act was always interpreted to apply to all online gambling. During the Obama Administration, the DOJ decided the wire act only applied to sports betting, thereby legalizing all other forms of online gambling. Its been argued that their decision wasn’t grounded in the plain language and clear intent of Congress when the act was passed in the 1960’s. Never the less, it opened the floodgates to online gambling. Recently, the DOJ produced a memorandum that said they planned to reinterpret the wire act to apply to all gambling as it was for so many years prior. Naturally many groups opposed the ruling and the DOJ delayed its enforcement to allow time for the court process to take place. Now, the first ruling has been made and unsurprisingly, it upholds the Obama Administrations ruling. An online source reports:

In a memo dated June 12, 2019, US Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen instructed all US attorneys to hold off on implementing the Wire Act opinion until the end of the calendar year. The last date given had been June 14, 2019, but the decision by the US District Court last week makes any enforcement of that Wire Act opinion illegal as it pertains to any forms of gambling other than sports betting.

[E]veryone will wait to see if the DOJ decides to appeal that decision or let it stand. It is unlikely that the DOJ will not appeal, as even Judge Barbadoro fully expected the case to head to the US Supreme Court, as noted during the oral arguments phase.

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