Category Archives: Gambling Venues

Could Florida Legalize Sports Betting in a New Tribal Gambling Agreement?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to renew the compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe, who has rights to exclusively offer various gambling table games. Parts of the compact have expired and both parties have generally been acting in good faith to honor the conditions lines out prior to their expiration (a few legal challenges aside). Even thought the tribe isn’t legally obligated to still provide certain payments to the state while a new compact is being worked through, they have still continued those payments. There are some in the state that want to see sports betting legalized in Florida after the recent Supreme Court ruling and its been suggested that these negotiations could allow for such legalization. An online source explains: 

There is neither a bill nor any proposal, but there is some ray of hope for *Florida* sports betting to sneak into the state’s short legislative session. A priority of the legislature is negotiating a new gaming compact with the *Seminole tribe*. *Senate President Bill Galvano* tells /Legal Sports Report/ he thinks legal sports betting would be part of any agreement.

“It’s definitely part of the discussion because that opportunity exists and they are as interested in participating in sports betting as other entities here in the state of Florida,” Galvano said. “We’re not at a point where we have a product agreed upon and know who gets that product, but we’re having those initial discussions and I think it’s something the tribe will want if we resolve this.”

Galvano was the key legislative negotiator of the 2010 compact with the Seminole. He tasked *Sen. Wilton Simpson* to meet with Seminole representatives to pursue a new compact. “Right now, from the state’s standpoint and speaking on behalf of the Senate, what is paramount is to see where we are ultimately with the tribe going forward,” Galvano said. “If we are able to restabilize that relationship, which provides substantial revenue to our state budget, then the opportunity is there for exploring sports betting in the state of Florida.”

The issue of which side would control this gambling is a more complicated matter as new gambling expansion must now be approved by the Florida voters. That change was made as a result of a statewide voter initiative last Nov when the measure passed by an overwhelming majority. They go on to explain: 

Complicating matters even further is a constitutional amendment Florida voters passed last November taking away the legislature’s authority to authorize casino gambling expansions in the state. *Marc Dunbar*, a government relations and gaming attorney who calls the Seminole a client, told /LSR/ that the only way FL sports betting can be offered without a constitutional amendment is through the tribes or the lottery.

Galvano indicated that the legislature would still attempt to move forward with a sports betting bill if it makes sense within the compact negotiation. He added that he had lawyers review the situation who think a reasonable argument can be made that sports betting doesn’t count as *Class III* casino gambling under Amendment 3.

“If we get within the red zone on a deal, the governor would engage and we would occupy the role of ratifying the compact, expansion on sports betting and any other changes in the parimutuel sector to come from the legislature,” Galvano said. “If it were to happen, it’s going to be pretty close to the end of the session before we can get everything lined up.”

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UPDATE: Wire Act Changes delayed by DoJ until June 14

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the developing situation surrounding the Department of Justices’ decision to restore the interpretation to the plain language of the Wire Act to ban all online gambling. The Obama Administration went against this long standing interpretation and concluded the Wire Act was only refereeing to sports betting, meaning all other forms of online gambling were not banned by federal law. This opened the floodgates to numerous state lottery programs as well other online gambling activities such as online poker. Now that the Trump Administration has announced its intent to restore the Wire Act to it original intention, many have objected and others have threatened to join in legal action. As a result, the DoJ is extending the recommended enforcement deadline to allow time for some of the legal challenges to play out. An online source explains: 

The U.S. Department of Justice extended any implementation of the agency’s revised Federal Wire Act opinion until June 14, according to a memo from outgoing Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The memo to all U.S. Attorneys, assistant attorney generals and the director of the FBI was signed Thursday. The Justice Department originally delayed the implementation until April 15. “We have decided to the extend that window an additional 60 day (through June 14, 2019),” Rosenstein wrote. “Providing this extension of time is an internal exercise of prosecutorial discretion and does not create a safe harbor for violations of the Wire Act.”

The move allow a legal challenge to the opinion, brought by New Hampshire, to moved forward in federal court. Rosenstein issued a memorandum on the 90-day delay the day after the opinion was announced, giving “businesses that relied on the 2011 (Office of Legal Counsel) opinion time to bring their operations into compliance with federal law.” Rosenstein is leaving office this week. Some in the gaming industry quietly hope new U.S. Attorney General William Barr – a state’s rights advocate – will simply opt not to enforce the opinion, just as the department doesn’t opt to prosecute for simple possession of marijuana. 

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New Jersey Plans to Sue the DOJ over Online Gambling Ruling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of the DOJ’s handling of the Wire Act as it pertains to gambling over both the Obama and Trump Administration. Most recently, the DOJ announced they had gone back to the long standing interpretation of the wire act that makes all forms of online gambling, not just sports gambling as the Obama Administration claimed, are illegal. This has understandably prompted a reaction from those that have decided to promote gambling in the online space. One of the more vocal states in regard to sports and online gambling has been New Jersey and they plan to sue the DOJ if they don’t reverse their stance. An online source reports:

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney has asked the Department of Justice to rescind its new opinion on the Wire Act. And if the DOJ does not, Sweeney has indicated NJ will go to court.

Sweeney’s letter to Rosenstein followed up on his statement days after the OLC opinion was made public in which he called on Lesniak, an attorney who served in the New Jersey legislature for 40 years, to come out of retirement to help protect the online gambling and sports betting industries that he helped bring to the state.

Lesniak then wrote a letter to Sweeney outlining how New Jersey could fight the opinion, and Sweeney used some of that language verbatim in his letter to the deputy attorney general.

Lesniak, who reactivated his license to practice law in the state of New Jersey on Monday, tells Online Poker Report that he plans to wait 30 days for new *US Attorney General Bob Barr* to get up to speed on the issue before filing the complaint requested by Sweeney.

The odds seem slim that the DOJ will resend their ruling. They aren’t taking a radical stance and they are simply going back to the clear intent of Congress that stood for so many years before the Obama Administration opened the flood gates of gambling by reversing the original intent. They have also been hinting at his position change for a while, so it truly seems unlikely that they would reverse their position based on New Jersey’s position. Time will tell if they follow through, but it seems likely that they will file a motion in court. 

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Guest Article: DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the new Department of Justice ruling that reestablished online gambling to be illegal under the wire act. The need for this ruling existed because the long standing intend of the wire act was erroneously reinterpreted by the Obama Administration to only apply to sports betting. This opened the flood gates to all other forms of online gambling. John Kent, Law and Economics Professor at the University of Illinois and the Senior Editor of the United States International Gaming Report opined why this reversal will help protect kids in an article published by The Hill: 

Until 2011, this DOJ ban had been in place for 50 years via the DOJ’s use of former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s Wire Act, 18 U.S.C. sec. 1084, which was initially passed to fight organized crime.

In concert with the recommendations of the 1999 U.S. National Gambling Impact Study Commission established by Congress, the DOJ’s use of the Wire Act protected the public — and particularly kids — from 24/7 online gambling, including gambling on video games.

However, on Dec. 23, 2011 via a 13-page memo, the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) reversed its long-held interpretation of the Wire Act to allow online non-sports gambling.

This 2011 OLC opinion was immediately vilified by the national press as reflecting corrupt influences and conflicts of interest, as detailed by the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor on Dec. 27, 2011.

During a congressional hearing on Sep. 27, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) again raised these bipartisan concerns, including OLC conflicts of interest. On Dec. 11, incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) signaled to Gambling Compliance that he thought that the 2011 OLC opinion was incorrect.

Showing a picture of a child on his wireless ipad, Newsweek’s front cover on Aug. 14, 2014 stated:
“How Washington Opened The Floodgates To Online Poker, Dealing Parents a Bad Hand.”

Subsequently, the severe social and economic consequences of online gambling were highlighted in congressional hearings on March 25, 2015, and most recently on Sep. 27 before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, chaired by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

The full article can be viewed HERE. 

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Online Gambling in Jeopardy in Wake of New Dep of Justice Ruling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the impact of the Obama Administration’s reinterpretation of the long standing Wire Act. It very clearly made online gambling that crossed state lines illegal, but the Obama Administration said it only covers sports betting, thereby opening the floodgates to all forms of online gambling except sports betting. This understandably led to a lot of concerns and questions over the safeguarding of those with access to online casinos, poker rooms or lotteries. Casino Watch reported two years ago that the Trump Administration was heavily considering reversing that reinterpretation and restoring the Wire Act to its original congressional intent. The Associated Press is reporting that the Department of Justice has followed through: 

The 2011 opinion opened the door for cash-strapped states and their lotteries to bring online gambling to their residents, as long as it did not involve interstate sports betting.

Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware legalized online gambling after that opinion was issued, and the three states have agreements allowing poker players to compete online across the states. Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online casino gambling in 2017.

Now, the Justice Department says the previous opinion misinterpreted the statute.

“Based upon the plain language of the statute, however, we reach a different result,” attorneys for the department wrote in the opinion dated Nov. 2. “While the Wire Act is not a model of artful drafting, we conclude that the words of the statute are sufficiently clear and that all but one of its prohibitions sweep beyond sports gambling.”

The Wire Act was enacted in 1961 to target the mob and its gambling activities.

The full scope of the impact of this decision by the Depart of Justice is still unknown and this story will continue to develop. It’s very possible that a sea of litigation will be opened up, but the Depart of Justice hasn’t fully explained how severely they plan to enforce this interpretation. The AP continues: 

Jennifer Roberts, associate director of the International Center for Gaming Regulation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the impact of the opinion rests on how strictly the Justice Department is going to enforce the new interpretation of the statute.

“Some could go really far and say even if you send a text message to a casino customer in another state and you are saying ‘Come play blackjack this weekend here’s a deal,’ arguably you can say that is information that assists in the placement of a wager,” she said. “I doubt it will go that far, but we will once again be subject to the interpretation.”

The new legal opinion will likely be challenged in court, an issue acknowledged by the department attorneys in their document.

Daniel Wallach, co-founding director of the University of New Hampshire School of Law Sports Wagering and Integrity Program, said the opinion could have “an immediate chilling effect” on the ability of states to conduct lotteries online.

“I think the most obviously impacted stakeholders are the lotteries that do internet sales, and that group is the most likely stakeholder to challenge this opinion in court.”

Advocacy group Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling and former U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas in a statement cheered the new opinion, characterizing the previous one as “problematic legally as it was morally” and calling the new one a “win for parents, children and other vulnerable populations.”

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Casino Billionaire buys Florida Casino after Amendment 3 is Passed by the People

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many efforts to expand gambling in Florida, specifically via full blown, Vegas-style resort casinos. Most efforts have failed to produce any meaningful gambling expansion. Most recently, Amendment 3 was passed by Florida Voters, meaning future gambling expansion efforts must be voted on by the people, making such gambling expansion far less likely given the current climate. So a new casino property acquisition by a well-known Las Vegas casino mogul has raised a few questions about intent. As one online source reportsPhil Ruffin has acquired a new casino property in Florida with the intent of some kind of expansion, the extent of which isn’t yet know:

Phil Ruffin is well known in the casino industry as the owner of the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The 83-year-old billionaire is looking to expand his domain and has now purchased the Casino Miami near the Miami International Airport in Florida.

The 200,000-square-foot casino is located less than 20 minutes from Downtown Miami. It features 1,000 “Vegas-style” gaming machines (and has a license for as many as 2,000) and an electronic table game area, along with live entertainment, live jai-alai and simulcast betting. The amount paid for Ruffin to acquire the casino was not released, but he said, “I look forward to entering the Miami gaming market through this acquisition. We have exciting plans for Casino Miami that we will be revealing in the near future.”

The purchase follows a state referendum vote last month that removed power to decide gaming-relating issues from lawmakers and gave it to voters. Going forward, any new gambling expansion will have to be voted on by citizens. Commercial casinos remain banned and house-banked games, such as roulette and blackjack, are only allowed by the Seminole Indian tribe Getting into Florida through Casino Miami is a way for Ruffin to develop a foothold ahead of any future expansion.

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Will Florida Amendment 3 Push the NFL’s Jaguars to London?

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the many faces of sports betting. With a fairly recent Supreme Court decision that allows for sports betting, many states have expanded in many ways. Florida had yet to pass legislation to legalize sports betting, so everything from daily fantasy sports to full sports books, remains open in Florida. Recently, the NFL has started shifting advocacy to support sports gambling and individual teams will be able to set up sponsorships like the Dallas Cowboys have done with a casino in their market. The Miami Dolphins came out against Amendment 3 and now there is talk about the Jaguars being more open to moving to London to avoid the current lack of open sports betting options in Florida. The NESN sports network explains: 

The future of legalized sports betting in Florida looks bleak at best, and one prominent NFL reporter thinks that could significantly alter the league’s landscapes in years to come. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio on Wednesday morning wondered whether the new law makes it more likely Jaguars owner Shad Khan will ultimately move the team to London. “The passage of the new amendment that, as a practical matter, will make it much harder to adopt sports wagering (and in turn create revenue streams like in-game prop bets) could make a relocation to London even more attractive to Khan,” Florio wrote. 

Speculation about Khad moving the Jaguars to London has existed almost since Khad bought the team in 2011. Khan’s purchase of English soccer club Fulham in 2013 only fanned those flames, and there’s been increased chatter about a potential relocation in recent years. Sports betting is far more prominent in the English soccer world, with no shortage of English Premier League partnerships. What’s more is that in-game betting is also allowed, and fans can place those bets from inside the stadium. The latest developments in Florida not only ensure in-game wagering won’t be coming to the Sunshine State anytime soon. It will also make it harder for the state’s pro sports teams to partner with sportsbooks because, well, the sportsbooks aren’t coming to Florida.

There are a lot of variables to the level of profitability form gambling NFL teams will even see, not to mention all of the logistical issues with the NFL having a team in London in general. Its hard to imagine that the chance of side gambling profits, profits that barely exist in the league at the moment, would be enough to move a team. This will undoubtedly be a developing story, but the move to London has been a topic since 2011, so its unlikely Florida NFL fans have much to worry about right now. 

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