Category Archives: Horse Racing

Sports Betting and Other Major Provisions in the Florida Gambling Compact with the Seminole Tribe Could Prevent Deal

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to renegotiated the expired portion of the Seminole Gambling Compact. Several attempts have been made over the past few legislative sessions, but nothing has been established and they have been acting in good faith since.  As this year’s session approaches its end, the efforts to finalize a new compact have strengthened. As previously explainedit was suggested that sports gambling could be legalized in Florida without needing to involve a vote of the people. Tribal gambling is not regulated in the same way, so if they were to offer it, its believed that it could be a way to work around the need for voter approval. Florida Politics online explains:

Simpson acknowledged last week that the concept of allowing the tribe to run sports books at the state’s dog and horse tracks and jai alai frontons was intended to sidestep a constitutional amendment that passed in November requiring statewide votes on citizens’ initiatives that would expand casino-type gambling.

But [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, indicated the constitutional amendment adds another layer of analysis to an already-complicated legal deal that also encompasses serious policy-making decisions.

“Obviously, me and my staff we’re going through it, looking substantively (at) what it means, but also legally. As you know, there’s a lot of legalities that are involved in this. There is just a (constitutional) amendment that passed. You know, the question, does it apply to the tribe? Does it apply to this or that? So there’s a whole host of things I think that need to be vetted through, but prior to yesterday I had not seen the outline. We have it now and are going through it,” DeSantis said.

This sports betting provision in general, however, is being set up in a way that Florida Gov Ron DeSantis believes could cause problems. Florida Politics continues:

With time already an enemy, Gov. Ron DeSantis injected more uncertainty Tuesday into a gambling deal reached by a Senate Republican leader and a representative of the Seminole Tribe, suggesting its passage would be too heavy a “legislative lift.”

The governor said he and his staff have begun scrutinizing “a draft outline” of the agreement, which would open the door for sports betting in Florida, with the tribe acting as a “hub” for sports betting at the state’s pari-mutuels.

But the Republican governor appeared skeptical of some sports-betting provisions in the deal, which reportedly also would permit in-play betting at professional sports arenas.

The manner in which sports betting is set up “could really affect the integrity of the games,” said DeSantis, who, as an undergraduate played baseball for Yale University.

“If I can place a wager on whether the first pitch of a game is going to be a strike or not, well, hell, that’s a big moral hazard, because that’s not necessarily something that would affect the total outcome,” he added.

Clearly sports betting has its own set of issues, but that’s not the only sticking point for a successful compact. Designated player games also need addressed given the temporary agreement expires after May of this year. The Tampa Bay Times explains: 

But some issues opposed by pari-mutuels could imperil the deal’s success in the House, several lobbyists said.

Controversial “designated player” games offered at many of the state’s pari-mutuel cardrooms are a key element of the deal. The Seminoles — and a federal judge — have maintained that the card games violate a 2010 gambling agreement with the state that gave the tribe “exclusivity” over offering banked card games, such as blackjack.

Amid the dispute about designated player games, former Gov. Rick Scott entered an agreement with the tribe in which the Seminoles have continued to pay about $350 million a year to the state, which pledged to “aggressively enforce” how the games are played. But that agreement expires on May 31, and the House and Senate have not included the revenue in next year’s budget.

The deal under discussion would severely alter the way the card games are being played, making them virtually unprofitable for pari-mutuel cardrooms, sources said.

House Speaker José Oliva told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday afternoon that he had seen a “brief outline” of the gambling proposal.

The issues don’t stop there either. There are discussions to decouple horse racing in the same way dog racing was decoupled by the voters last election as well as other intertwined gambling issues. At the end of the day, Gov. DeSantis thinks it could simply be too many issues with too many parties to come to an agreement in time. The Tamp Bay Times continues:

To appease the pari-mutuels about the changes to the designed player games, the proposed agreement would also allow horse tracks to do away with horse races, while keeping lucrative activities like cardrooms and slot machines, which are legal at tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It is unclear whether such “decoupling” would also apply to jai alai frontons. Dog tracks are already allowed to drop greyhound races, thanks to a voter-approved constitutional amendment passed in November.

The pari-mutuels would also be able to operate sports books, with a cut going to the tribe, but the profits from sports betting wouldn’t offset the losses from the changes in the designated player games, according to industry experts.

Under the agreement, the Seminoles would be able to add craps and roulette to other gambling activities currently underway at the tribe’s casinos. The tribe would agree to pay about $400 million a year to the state, an amount that could gradually increase to about $500 million a year. That’s a boost from the current revenue-sharing agreement with the tribe, but far less than what legislative leaders had originally envisioned.

The decisions by the House and Senate to not include the tribe’s annual payments in their budget proposals takes some pressure off negotiators as lawmakers work to hammer out a final budget in the coming days.

Senate President Bill Galvano on Tuesday afternoon told the News Service that Simpson was continuing to work on the gambling deal, which the president said was still in play.

But with just a week-and-a-half left before the legislative session is slated to end, DeSantis hinted that passage of a compact would be extremely difficult. 

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

Advertisements

UPDATE: Florida Decoupling Decision Draws Challenge

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to decouple dog racing from gambling venues, thus allowing them to operate stand alone slot machine gambling parlors. True decoupling efforts have been prevented, but the first approved case of de facto decoupling just happened in Florida. An old 1980 law was instrumental in the Magic City case and lead to the recent decoupling that will allow the facility to supplement actual races with jai alai matches. That ruling, however, is now being challenged, but its unclear if the challenge will be heard. The Miami CBS affiliate reports: 

Hartman and Tyner, Inc., and H&T Gaming, Inc., which run the Broward pari-mutuel, have filed a motion requesting that the Department of Businessand Professional Regulation vacate or reconsider the decision last month related to Magic City Casino in Miami.

The decision by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering would allow Magic City, operated by WestFlagler Associates, to replace dog races with jai alai matches and continue offering lucrative slots. The approval dealt with a long-controversial issue known as a “summer jai alai” permit.

In their motion, attorneys for the Broward pari-mutuel’s operators said, in part, that their effort to intervene in the issue was improperly dismissed by the department. Also, they pointed to a 2004 constitutional amendment that allowed slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and contend that Magic City is only allowed to offer slots in conjunction with a greyhound-racing permit — not a summer jai alai permit.

“As an existing greyhound permit holder and slot machine gaming operator, intervenors (Hartman and Tyner and H&T Gaming) have a right to be heard as to how the constitutional and statutory provisions are being interpreted as it relates to allowing new permits to be used for expanding slot machine operations,” the motion said. “Intervenors assert that slot machine gaming at West Flagler’s facility pursuant to its summer jai alai permit should not be authorized and would be illegal.”

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


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.

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


Florida Judge Slaps Horse Racing Group with Show Cause Order

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the continuing struggle of Florida’s Greyhound horse racing industry.  Horse racing has been on its last leg for some time, seemingly staying afloat not by the revenue generated by the races themselves, but due to the slot machine revenue those have collected at their facilities. The recent focus of a ballot initiative petition was the treatment of horses in the industry and others are convinced the industry would collapse if not for the additionally allowed gambling at the races. Now industry in fighting can be added to the worries facing the industry as a Florida Judge has issues a show cause order.   The Saint Peters Blog explains:

A Marion County circuit judge is giving a statewide racehorse owners group 20 days to explain why it shouldn’t be ordered to consider changing the way it operates. The “order to show cause” was entered against The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association on Friday. It is based in Ocala, informally known as “Horse Capital of the World.”

Horse trainer *Adolfo Exposito* sued the association after it refused to put eight changes to its bylaws up for a vote at its membership meeting, set for this Thursday. The proposed changes are backed by what the Ocala StarBanner has called a “dissident group” of nearly 60 members. They involve, among other things, making the association pay out more “incentive awards and payments” to its members instead of keeping the money, and capping total employee compensation at $500,000 per year.

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


Florida Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Major Slot Expansion Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling expansion issue in Florida over the right of any jurisdiction to vote on allowing slot machines verses the clear intent of Florida legislators to only allow slot machines at state approved locations.  The case involving gambling expansion in Gadsden County has reached the Florida Supreme Court and arguments were presented.  Creek Entertainment Gretna lawyer claim that any referendum passed by the people should be allowed to move forward as long as there is an eligible facility to run the slots.  The implications for the case are quite vast and would allow Greyhound Racing and other pari-mutuel type facilities to dramatically, and likely drastically expand gambling in the state, which is clearly not the intent of state regulators, and the clear conclusion reached by the lower court.  The Tampa Bay Times explains:

[Jonathan Williams, deputy solicitor general for the state] said the case relies on more than grammar and semantics and urged the court to uphold a First District Court of Appeal decision which voted 2-1 to reject Gretna’s slots license because the Legislature did not authorize slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. “You either have to get the constitutional authorization or the legislative authorization,” Williams told the court, and Gretna had neither. 

Marc Dunbar, lead lawyer for Gretna, pointed to a rule change made by the Legislature and claim that the change opens the door for any county to move forward with the proper facility.  Not only Williams refute the claim to the Court, but the Justices themselves raised serious questions about their position:

The race track was not an operating pari-mutuel facility when voters approved the statewide constitutional amendment allowing slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward in 2003 but, because Hialeah was located in Miami-Dade, legislators agreed to revise the law to include it among the casinos that could operate Class III slots.

The Legislature changed the law in 2010 to allow counties to authorize slot machines, but Williams said that change applies only if the Legislature or the state Constitution authorized the expansion. It does not authorize counties to hold a referendum “for the legal effect of providing an exemption to a statewide ban,” he said.

Justices grilled Dunbar and Williams about what they saw as conflicting legislative intent. [Justice Barbara Pariente] asked Dunbar why lawmakers would authorize slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward but not specifically authorize them elsewhere. “To basically say to 65 other counties you just have to have a referendum and, if you’re a home rule [county], you’re fine,” she said. “This would have been a very, very significant expansion of slot machines… and there is nary a mention in the legislative record of this kind of change.”

Florida legislators responded to questions from the Tampa Bay Time about their perceived intent during the rule change and if massive gambling expansion was really the focus:

Rep. Alan Williams, a Tallahassee Democrat and supporter of Gretna Racing, said he voted for the change to allow counties the opportunity to bring slot machines to their pari-mutuels and “our intent was never to hamstring the counties and tell them what they could not do.”

But Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who has been at the core of the Legislature’s gambling negotiations for the past seven years, said Tuesday that when lawmakers adopted the change to the state gaming law in 2010, they did not intend to open the door to the expansion of slot machines as Gretna Racing and five other pari-mutuels around the state are claiming. “It was not the intent of the Legislature to open the door for counties to hold their own referendums to allow the expansion of slots,” he said in an interview with the /Times/Herald/.

He said the Legislature wanted to clarify the terms of the referendum language in the event lawmakers would ever approve of an expansion of gaming in the future. “We didn’t want the Hialeah expansion to muddy the waters,” he said. “Instead, we reiterated that if we approved legislatively expanded slots — or a legislatively constitutional amendment … we didn’t relinquish authority.”

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


Battle Over ‘Flag Drop’ Horse Races Could Affect Florida Slot Expansion

Casino Watch Focus has not only reported on the ongoing Florida Slot expansion case in before their Supreme court, but also on other creative attempts at allowing slots through flag drop racing. The issue at hand is that slot machines in Florida can be allowed at certain horse & dog racing tracks and various pari-mutual facilities, but fairly specific rules exist as to what constitutes proper racing. Four years ago permits were allowed for quarter-barrel racing, but the court ruled it wasn’t proper racing. The State then allowed for “flag drop” races where the two horses effectively race against each other. Its been a fairly contentious issue that has clear gambling expansion implications in Florida. Sunshine State News explains: 

Gambling regulators and a tiny horse track in Hamilton County are at odds over whether a series of “flag drop” races two summers ago, which one former state official described as “a sham,” constituted legitimate horse races.

“Events that were called races at the time were held, however it’s the division’s position that the races were not races of speed, and therefore do not count as races,” Caitlin Mawn, assistant general counsel for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, argued Monday. The department includes the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

In about one-third of the races, “the horse didn’t run or just walked or the rider fell off,” Haskel testified. The flag drop “in no way, shape or form resembles a horse race,” Haskel said. “Nothing about Hamilton Downs is real in terms of race track standards,” he said.

The ruling from Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early, who starting hearing testimony Monday in what is expected to be a two-day hearing, could play a role in whether the track is eligible in the future to add lucrative slot machines.

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


Dangerous Decoupling Efforts fail to Advance as Seminole Gambling Compact Dies during this years Florida Legislative Session

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to renew the long standing Seminole Gambling Compact that offers various exclusive rights to the Seminole Indians in exchange for specific payments to the state. That compact expired and a new compact was negotiated between Florida Gov. Scott and the Seminole Tribe. Unfortunately, the compact was not a simple extension of the existing agreement, but instead represented massive gambling expansion. One of the biggest areas of expanded gambling represented in this legislation was a decoupling effort. Many reports have outlined the dangers of decoupling but the Compact and any new gambling expansion efforts added into that compact needs to be ratified by the Florida Legislature. Luckily for those working hard to protect Florida’s families from the dangers of expanded gambling, these expansion efforts will not pass in the current legislative session. An online source explains:

You won’t see craps or roulette in Florida casinos for at least another year after state lawmakers were unable to pass gaming legislation during the 2016 session, which ends on Friday.

[T]he legislature still had to sign off on the agreement, or at least pass alternative legislation for the Seminoles and Scott to consider. Instead, they allowed the deal between Scott and the tribe to die.

The original Seminole Compact represented a balance in allowing some gambling, while still limiting the overall impact to Florida families through exclusivity agreements. Had the compact been a simple extension, the compact might have been passed. However, too many special interests tried to use the compact as a way to expand gambling all over the state. Not only has this approach been showed to go against the will of voters in Florida, but its also the approach that prevented any sensible regulation from passing.   Florida Politics Online explains:

*Barry Richard*, who represents the Seminole Tribe of Florida,**blamed the apparent Tuesday morning collapse of the 2016 gambling bills on lawmakers bending over backward to appease the state’s dog and horse racing concerns [decoupling].

Meantime, legislators added language allowing, among many other things, slot machines in five new counties — Brevard, Gadsden, Lee, Palm Beach and Washington — and permitting a form of poker known as “designated player games” at all pari-mutuels, something state gambling regulators now say is illegal. Provisions like those turned the deal on its head, Richard said.

These gambling expansion issues may not be moving forward in this legislative session, but a special session can still be called and the compact could be debated again. Stay informed on the ongoing dangers of these gambling expansion issues and be vigilant in letting your elected representatives know that you stand with Florida families by limiting gambling expansion in the state.

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