Category Archives: legislation

Florida House and Senate at Odds over best Gambling Future for the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of expanded gambling in Florida. Most recently, its was reported that the Florida Senate introduced a massive gambling expansion bill. Earlier this monththe Senate pushed the gambling bill through its first hurdle by approving it in committee. An online source provides some key details of the bill: 

A bill that calls for statewide gambling expansion *has passed a vote in the Florida Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee*. Sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, the proposed 112-page law will next be heard in the Committee on Appropriations. If it gains the necessary support there, the legislation will next advance to the Senate floor.

Generally speaking, Senate Bill 8 will allow for the addition of more slot machines at more gambling facilities. In order for this to be possible, the legislative piece proposes a change in the definition of *“eligible facility.”* Under SB 8, slots will be legal in all counties where the operation of the devices has been approved in a countywide referendum. Other counties will be able add slot machines, if their residents vote positively on the move at referendums that can take place after January 1, 2018. Sen. Galvano has also proposed what has been defined as ‘decoupling’, a measure that would allow state dog and horse tracks to feature other gambling options such as card games and slots *without having to run live races*. In addition, SB 8 will allow the Seminole Tribe, which operates a number of casinos across Florida, to offer different banked table games, including *craps, roulette, and sic-bo*. However, the tribe will no longer have monopoly over the provision of blackjack around the state.

Now, the Florida House has released its direction for Florida’s gambling future with its own bill. This bill is seen as more practical and potentially less harmful to Florida’s families. The Saint Peters Blog reports: 

The Florida House of Representatives quietly released its gambling overhaul for 2017 Thursday afternoon, setting it for a hearing next Thursday. As expected, the 81-page bill includes a renewed blackjack deal, or “compact,” between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, as first struck by Gov. Rick Scott.  No Casinos, the gambling expansion group, soon tweeted: “Still analyzing bill, but at first blush @MyFLHouse seems to have found a way to renew compact without turning FL into Vegas/Atlantic City.” 

But the House already is at odds with the Senate’s 112-page measure, which is set for its second and last committee hearing next week before the Appropriations panel. In one significant example, the House bill outlaws designated-player card games, but the Senate would let “all cardroom operators … offer designated player games.” In banked card games, players bet against the “house,” or the casino, and not each other. In traditional poker, people play against each other for a pot of money. Designated-player games are a hybrid, where the bank is supposed to revolve among the players. Moreover, the House would prohibit the expansion of slot machines, retroactively to Jan. 1 of this year, by barring state regulators from issuing any new slots licenses. The Senate generally expands the availability of slot machines, including allowing “any licensed pari-mutuel facility” to get slots.

Last month, House Speaker *Richard Corcoran* suggested his chamber’s approach to gambling would be different. “I’ve seen the (Senate) bill, and look, it’s not where we’re at,” Corcoran told reporters. “The three things we’ve said are, it has to be a contraction (of gambling) … we want a constitutional amendment that bans the expansion of gaming; the Senate’s said they have no interest … and we have courts that keep encroaching upon our ability to make those decisions.” 

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Florida Greyhound Industry Under fire as Gambling Interests Attempt to Leverage Poor Treatment of Dogs as a Means to Expand Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issues facing Florida’s greyhound industry. The treatment of the dogs has certainly been concerning and has lead to many calling for an end of such an old and problematic form of gambling. Most legislators have focused on legislation that will protect the dogs. Most recently, several State Representatives pushed forth legislation to prevent doping of the dogs. Florida Politics reports: 

Decrying that racing dog owners are “doping greyhounds,” state Rep. *Carlos Guillermo Smith* joined state Rep. *Alexandra Miller* and*Dana Young* Friday in another effort to tighten regulation of dog racing in Florida, with a bill explicitly banning the use of steroids. The trio asserted that female racing greyhounds are routinely given injections of anabolic steroids, or testosterone, to prevent the loss of race days and push their bodies beyond natural limits. “We know they are using steroids,” Smith said. “They are doping greyhounds. It’s inhumane.”

 While these efforts are clearly aimed at protecting the animals, such efforts are vastly different from those that claim dog racing and gambling should simply be separated, an act knows as de-coupling, leaving mini casino’s in their place. Those that seek regulation of the dogs in such a straightforward manor, often call for the end of dog racing and the gambling that keeps it in existence. However, those that seek to continue the gambling simply try to exploit the issues facing the dogs & decreased attendance and instead of concluding that the entire industry should cease to exist, they say its reason for de-coupling. Paul Seago, the executive of No Casinos, provides the analysis in an op-ed written for the Herald-Tribune:

Since horse and greyhound racing and jai alai were legalized in Florida in the 1930s, pari-mutuel owners have engaged in an almost ceaseless yearly pilgrimage to the state capitol to beg, cajole and lobby for more and more gambling with the same mantra, “give us more gambling so we can compete …;” Over the years, the Florida Legislature has given pari-mutuels simulcast wagering, poker rooms, higher poker-hand limits, and no-limit poker over the years without a vote of Floridians and without competitive bids… It is a phenomenon we call “gambling creep” (and is the subject of a video we have posted on our website at www.NoCasinos.org

Now, pari-mutuels have their sights set on slot machines, essentially making each one a casino. Recall that Florida voters rejected the idea of turning every pari-mutuel in the state into a casino in 1994 by a 2-to-1 ratio. That didn’t stop the pari-mutuels from continuing to ask lawmakers for more gambling, finally receiving card rooms in 1996. At first their arguments were that people loved racing and jai alai but needed new forms of gambling to enhance prize purses so they could continue to offer their races and live performances. Now they argue no one wants to watch racing and live jai alai so they need more gambling to continue to exist and they no longer want to offer races and live events. We take exception to pari-mutuel owners feeling that their license gives them a birthright to whatever forms of gambling become fashionable over time.

If pari-mutuels no longer wish to do the only thing the Florida Constitution authorizes them to do, they should turn in their licenses and find another purpose for their land. Instead, the Legislature has given each of these license-holders the idea that their permit is a Willy Wonka-style “golden ticket” that will one day transform their ancient track or fronton into a Las Vegas-style casino. That is not following the free market, or the wishes of Florida voters. It’s giving into crony capitalists looking for another round of corporate welfare.

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Congress Introduces Federal Sports Gambling Bills

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing attempts at legalizing sports betting, with the most common attempts coming from New Jersey. They have attempted, and failed, countless times to get sports betting legalized in New Jersey. Right now the law only allow select destinations like Las Vegas. There most recent attempt was stopped in court and they have appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. The decision to pick up the case or deny it and allow the lower court ruling to stand is being delayed. The Kansas City Star explains: 

Nevada is the only state allowed to offer wagering on single games. Delaware, Montana and Oregon were exempted from the 1992 federal ban and are permitted to offer limited multi-game parlay pools. Congress gave New Jersey a one-time opportunity to become the fifth state before the ban was enacted, but the state failed to pass a sports betting law in the required time window. Republican Gov. Chris Christie has championed New Jersey’s effort in an attempt to use sports gambling revenues to bolster the sagging fortunes of the state’s casino and horse racing industries. The case has a lengthy legal history.

Supporters of legalized sports gambling in New Jersey and several other states were dealt a no-decision of sorts Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court delayed a ruling on whether it will take up the states’ challenge to a federal ban. The court invited the solicitor general to file a brief on behalf of the government, which means a decision could take several more months.

As that case sits, New Jersey has decided to not leave the issue to chance and is instead looking to change the federal law that is preventing each of their attempts to legalize sports betting to become law. Two New Jersey Congressmen have introduced legislation to legalize sports betting on a federal level. An online source explains:

Congressmen Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone, Jr., both of New Jersey, said last week that their House bills “would ensure a path forward for New Jersey and other states seeking to legalize sports betting, regardless of whether the Supreme Court hears New Jersey’s case.’

Pallone is sponsoring the “NJ BET Act,” which would exempt New Jersey from current federal law. LoBiondo’s bill is called the “Sports Gaming Opportunity Act,” and it would allow all states to enact laws providing for sports betting during a four-year window. Both men in 2015 introduced similar legislation that didn’t go anywhere on Capitol Hill.

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Florida Legislature and Gambling Industry Brace for Massive Gambling Expansion Bill introduced in the Florida Senate

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling issues in Florida. The most recent gambling issues have centered around the Seminole Tribe Gambling Compact  and exclusivity of table gamesand gambling venues right to expand gamblingMost of these issues are intertwined, but almost all gambling expansion requires the approval of the Florida legislature and each session these issues are up for debate. This year is no different so it should come as no surprise that a new gambling bill has been proposed for the upcoming session. The scope and size of the bill however, is rather surprising. An online source summarizes the details:

A comprehensive bill to reform gambling in the US state of Florida has been introduced. Saying he wants to avoid the arguments that have hampered previous efforts, Bill Galvano, president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, has launched a bill that offers “something for everyone.”

Galvano introduced Senate Bill 8 two months before the legislature convenes, saying he wants to give all sides time to compromise. The bill would allow major slots expansion, allow blackjack in South Florida pari-mutuel card rooms, deal with daily fantasy sports and offer a new gaming compact to the Seminole Indians.

The specifics of the bill will be expanded upon as session nears, but the direction of the bill pointing firmly in the direction of massive expansion, will surely catch the eye of everyone involved, including the Florida House who seems to prefer less gambling, especially in light of the complexities involved with the Seminole Compact.   The source continues:

The bill’s fate looks uncertain with the House preferring a contraction of gaming and the Seminoles saying a loss of gambling exclusivity would mean an end of their compact, thus an end of payments to the state. 

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Florida Legislator Attempts to Exempt Daily Fantasy Sports Industry from Gambling Regulations

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing path of newest gambling fad, daily fantasy sports (DFS). Many jurisdictions are viewing these daily contests as simple gambling given there isn’t the same skill level involved in playing with one drafted fantasy team over the course of a season and instead players pick a new team of players, most often with the ability to pick the exact same player, each day. Others have tried to pass legislation to call them games of skill and thus not gambling. Florida is a key jurisdiction given the major companies involved, DraftKings and FanDuel have corporate offices located in the state. Florida has sought to address the issue legislatively over the past two years, but with no true outcome. This session seems to be no different as a new Bill has been introduced that seeks to make DFS legal by exempting them from regulation. An online gambling site reports:

Florida state Rep. Jason Brodeur recently filed HB149, which would declare daily fantasy sports is a game of skill, not luck, thereby removing it from oversight by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees parimutuels, poker, slots and other gambling.

Last year state Senator Joe Negron and state Reps. Matt Gaetz and Ritch Workman filed similar bills. The House Business & Professional Subcommittee passed Gaetz’s and Workman’s bill to allow and regulate DFS in Florida, but it died because lawmakers considered blackjack and fantasy sports to be gambling expansions.

Florida gaming lawyer Daniel Wallach pointed out, “In Florida it is illegal to bet or wager on both games of chance and contests of skill. So calling it a ‘contest of skill’ does not insulate the games under Florida law because wagering in those types of contests is also illegal. In my view, DFS would probably be considered ‘gambling’ under Florida’s broad test.” As a result, Wallach said, Brodeur’s bill is “a straight-up decriminalization measure that comes at a potentially heavy cost for consumers, with no regulatory oversight, and, even worse, no regulations unlike in other states.”

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Florida State Sen. President Hopeful over New Seminole Gambling Compact Deal

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing dealings between Florida and the Seminole Tribe over gambling exclusivity in the state. An agreement was reached between the two to exclusively offer table games in exchange for monetary compensation to the state. The original compact was set up in 2010 for 20 years with a renegotiation period for table games in 2015. That time came and went without a full deal being reached. At the deadline, the Florida Gov and the Tribe reached an agreement, but given the massive amount of additional gambling expansion, the Florida Legislature failed to ratify the agreement. The two have been involved in various legal battles since, but the Seminole Tribe just won a major case against the state for violating exclusivity and not negotiating in good faith.  The court agreed that the state violated the exclusivity agreement and are now allowed to continue to allow those table games through the originally compact term in 2030. Its not surprising then, that the Legislature is even more motivated to come to terms on a new gambling compact. The Sun Sentinel explains:

During a news conference Tuesday, shortly after being sworn in as Senate president, Negron said he supports reaching a new deal with the tribe, while also taking into consideration issues affecting the state’s pari-mutuel facilities. Such an agreement likely would involve the tribe making payments to the state for the right to offer certain games at its casinos.

“I’m optimistic that we can work together with our colleagues in the House and ratify a compact, hopefully long term enough so that the state has predictability in revenue and that’s also fair to pari-mutuels, who are also involved in gaming throughout Florida,” Negron said.

Lawmakers have been unable for years to pass major gambling legislation, as the issue often pits different parts of the gaming industry and also draws opposition from many conservative lawmakers.

The Florida Legislative session doesn’t begin until March and Negron believes there is time to get an agreement reached. Both sides should be willing to engage in negotiations, but the state is now at more of a disadvantage and will need to focus on reducing gambling, not drastically expanding it like they failed to push through with the last attempt. The Sun Sentinel continues: 

Negron expressed optimism that a deal could be reached and approved during the 2017 legislative session, which starts in March. “Of course, it’s November, there’s plenty of time,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. “We were close to having the outline of a potential agreement last session, so it’s not as if we’re starting from scratch.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, said Monday that Hinkle’s ruling benefited the tribe and “marginally” weakened the state’s negotiating position on a new deal. But he said the tribe still has reasons to negotiate a new deal with the state. “What they need is long-term stability,” Corcoran said. “And so yeah, they’re going to still come to the table, they’re going to still want that long-term stability, and we’ll see. We’ll have that negotiation and we’ll have that work itself through.”

He said any gambling legislation that passes the House would have to be “very conservative” and involve a reduction in gaming.

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New York Fantasy Sports Legislation Might Be Subject to Lawsuits Seeking to Stop Expanded Sports Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments in the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) industry. These daily fantasy games are essentially taking the skill based game of fantasy sports that typically lasts and entire season and boiling it down to a daily gambling activity which lacks the same skill based approach as typical fantasy games. The industry was called out for being a very obvious form of illegal sports gambling at both the state and national level. Feeling the pressure, the industry has at temped to self regulate to have the appearance of safeguards for players and they have spend tons of time and money in lobbying efforts to legalize their gambling product. Each state has, however, chosen to regulate the industry in a different way, and some have defined DFS as games of skill, thus making it immune to gambling laws. One of the newest states to enter the debate is New York, and they may be facing lawsuits. The Buffalo News reports: 

A national anti-gambling group may sue to try to reverse a new law legalizing daily fantasy sports contests in New York State.

“We believe in improving the lives of New Yorkers, and part of that mission is to repeal the state’s predatory gambling policies, and litigation is part of that effort,” said Les Bernal, national director of the Washington, D.C.–based Stop Predatory Gambling.

Critics of the new law, signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo two weeks ago, say the Legislature needed to go through a lengthy constitutional amendment process to legalize a new form of gambling. Instead, the bill’s sponsors relied on a statutory change that declared the fantasy sports contests to be “games of skill” instead of illegal games of chance.

The anti-gambling group Stop Predatory Gambling, isn’t the only organization that has an interest is stopping this form of gambling. There have been talks of local casino companies bringing suit. Additionally, the new legislation may very well violate the state’s exclusivity agreements with tribal groups in New York. Stop Predatory Gambling has been clear, however, that they wont partner with such groups and they have their own, more altruistic reasons for trying to protect the citizens of New York. The Buffalo News continues:

Where the money to fund the litigation by the national anti-gambling group would come from is not certain, but Bernal said his group would not partner, directly or indirectly, with any casino companies that also opposed the June legislation.

Bernal pointed to a May Siena College poll that found 45 percent of New Yorkers opposed daily fantasy sports and 37 percent supported it.

“There is no single act of New York State government that creates more inequality of opportunity than its sponsorship of predatory gambling,” Bernal said. “And now what state government is trying to do is force predatory gambling into every home and smart phone in the state as a result of a push by very powerful gambling interests.” 

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