Category Archives: legislation

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. 

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Missouri’s Largest Gambling Expansion Proposal Since Casino Legalization Emerges in the House

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various gambling proposals and changes in the Missouri gambling landscape, but this proposal might be the most shocking. The Missouri constitution was amended to allow gambling on riverboats by the voters back in 1994 and since that time, the qualifications for river boat gambling has drastically expanded. Its started as actual river boats that traveled up and down the rivers for a two hour period, but now no time or monetary limits exist and gamblers walk into full scale buildings up to 25 feet off the river bank (albeit with a tiny amount of river water with a tiny amount of river water pumped underneath them as to technically make them water craft). Even still, gambling has always been limited to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Now a bill has been proposed in the Missouri house that is so radical, it’s not an exaggeration to call it the largest and most problematic expansion of gambling the state has ever seen. An online source explains:

“This irresponsible bill would permit slot machines on every street corner where a restaurant, bar, convenience store or truck stop is located,” said Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association. “These machines look and play just like slot machines. If this bill passes, we can expect to see them in every city, town or community across the state. Missouri could very quickly have more slot machines outside of casinos than inside them.”

“This is not what Missouri voters envisioned when they voted to approve casino wagering in Missouri,” Winter said. “Voters were very careful to restrict casinos to certain locations and to limit the number of casinos.”

The bill would bypass a vote by Missouri residents, who first authorized casinos by ballot initiative in 1994 and also voted to limit the number of casinos to 13 in 2008.

Not only does the bill drastically expand gambling, it seemingly bypassing regulation by the Missouri gambling commission and it leaves vulnerable those people and families who could be most impact by gambling addiction. The source continues:

If passed, the proposed gambling expansion is expected to heavily impact rural areas throughout the state. The same towns and cities that opposed casinos in their communities could suddenly see hundreds of slot machines in family restaurants, convenience stores and other retail establishments.

HB 423 would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from playing lottery slot machines but oversight would be minimal as compared to the strict rules that regulate casinos. Busy retailers with machines on their premises would be solely responsible for monitoring their use.

“The proposed regulations, security and oversight are simply inadequate,” Winter said. “This gambling expansion would bypass not only our state’s voters but also our strong gaming commission, which establishes and enforces strict gambling regulations in our casinos.”

Missouri casinos and the Missouri Gaming Association provide a full range of programs to promote responsible gaming and to help those who have a gambling problem. Retailers hosting lottery slot machines would not be required to provide similar responsible gaming education.

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


Florida Bill Banning Online Lottery sales Advances with Additional Warnings for Gamblers

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments of the Department of Justice’s decision to restore the wire act to its long standing position that makes online gambling illegal. Many states have an eye on the developments as legal action was threatened by New Jersey and New Hampshire. The topic is also of interest in Florida where many are curious how gambling legislation will move forward in the wake of the Voters in Charge gambling bill being passed that requires statewide voter approval for gambling expansion. The most well know issue centers around sports betting, but online gambling is also of interest. To that extent, a bill is moving forward in the Florida legislature to end the practice of online lottery sales before it gets off the ground. An online source reports:

Florida does not sell lottery tickets over the internet — and if a bill passed Wednesday by the House Gaming Control Subcommittee becomes law, it never will.

While New Hampshire has sued the Department of Justice in a bid to protect the revenues it derives from its online lottery operations, State Rep. Will Robinson (R-Bradenton) wants to the option taken off the table entirely.

The main aim of Robinson’s bill — which was advanced by the committee in a 10-1 vote — is to shut out third-party websites that claim affiliation with the state lottery but actually just buy tickets and mark up prices.

The bill would ban the use of personal electronic devices for the sale and purchase of tickets, ensuring that every ticket sale involves a transaction between a store and an in-person buyer.

“These fraudulent websites are, in my view, illegally advertising when they are not related to the lottery system at all,” he told /Florida Politics/ earlier this week. “The lottery is significantly regulated and that’s for a purpose … The state of Florida wants to make sure the right thing is being sold.”

The bill’s intent goes beyond just selling tickets online however. The Rep. Will Robinson Jr believes people should truly understand how very unlikely the changes of winning the lottery are for would be gamblers. He has proposed additional warnings placed on physical tickets. The Tampa Bay Times explains:

Debate about a bill that would require warnings on lottery tickets quickly turned into a debate on Wednesday about whether anyone in Florida is actually addicted to lottery games, with one lawmaker blasting it as “deceptive.” The bill (HB 629) by state Rep. Will Robinson, Jr., R-Bradenton, would add two warnings to the front of every lottery ticket:

“WARNING: PLAYING A LOTTERY GAME CONSTITUTES GAMBLING AND MAY LEAD TO
ADDICTION AND/OR COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOR.”

And, “THE CHANCES OF WINNING A BIG PRIZE ARE VERY LOW.”

Under the bill, those two warnings would take up 10 percent of the face of every lottery card, and they would be required in every Florida Lottery advertisement, including those on television.

But state Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, grilled Robinson during a House Gaming Control Subcommittee meeting about whether he knows of anyone addicted to lottery games. Robinson he didn’t know of any personal examples, but he pointed to news articles out of state. That led Slosberg to come out strongly against the bill.

How many people might be addicted to the games is unclear. But the numbers show that some Floridians spend a staggering amount each year on lottery tickets. Last year, the Florida Lottery sold $6.7 billion in tickets — nearly $400 in tickets for every adult in the state. (The figure doesn’t include tourists, some of whom also play.) And while the Florida Lottery does post the number to a gambling addiction hotline on its website, it doesn’t say anything on its tickets. State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who used to run a casino consulting company in Las Vegas, disagreed with Slosberg. “The research proves that there are people that become addicted to gambling, and whether it’s 1 percent or 5 percent, people do at times become susceptible to this,” he said. “I know this from my prior life.”

The bill passed the House Gaming Control Subcommittee with only Slosberg voting against it. 

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Bipartisan Federal Sports Betting Regulations Introduced

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing battles to legalize sports betting outside of Las Vegas. Since the recent Supreme Court decision effectively allows individual states to pass sports betting legislation, many have called for a federal response to provide uniform and consistent guidelines. Now, a new bill has been brought forth and it’s a bipartisan effort. Forbes explains: 

Days before he is scheduled to retire, Orrin Hatch has a parting gift for the Senate. Hatch and Sen. Chuck Schumer introduced bipartisan legislation on Wednesday that would create uniform federal standards for the legalized sports betting market. The bill, the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018, is being introduced less than eight months after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in May that struck down a 26-year federal ban on sports gambling.

“This bill is the first step toward ensuring that sports betting is done right in the states that choose to legalize it. Just as importantly, it provides protections for states that choose not to go down that path,” Hatch said in a statement.

The proposed legislation includes a mandate that would require sports wagering operators to use data provided or licensed by sports organizations to determine the outcome of sports wagers through 2024. Upon the completion of the transition period, the proposed bill allows operators to use alternative forms of data if they can prove that it is sufficiently similar to the data provided by the leagues.

Each state has 18 months to come into compliance with the legislation before the bill takes effect. Hatch, a Utah Republican, was an original author of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 federal law that prohibited sports betting.

This bill has garnered the support of the NFL and others as its viewed as having the necessary regulatory guidelines and enforcement tools to help regulate the industry as best as it can. Forbes continues: 

“The bipartisan legislation that Senator Hatch and I have introduced, follows the principles laid out in the federal framework that I released in August and will serve as solid foundation upon which we build the appropriate guardrails around the burgeoning sports betting industry,” Schumer said in a statement.

In the months since the Court rendered its decision, the NFL has advocated for the imposition of robust federal guidelines that could mitigate some of the societal risks posed by sports gambling. On Wednesday, NFL Executive Vice President Jocelyn Moore applauded the senators for establishing positions in the bill that “closely aligned,” with the core standards she articulated in testimony before Congress. Specifically, Moore appeared pleased with guidelines that could provide law enforcement with tools to penalize unscrupulous actors closely tied to the dark underbelly of gambling.

Not everyone supports the bill and others see it as a vehicle for expanding the Wire Act to involve all interstate betting, not just sports betting. The changing political landscape will also complicate the issue. Forbes wraps up by reporting: 

There were also reports on Wednesday that the Department of Justice is prepared to reverse a 2011 opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel on the Federal Wire Act. When the department issues the opinion, the government could find that the act pertains to all forms of online gambling, not just sports betting, according to Online Poker Report. In an opinion seven years ago, the office wrote that the act only applied to the latter.

The bipartisan bill from Hatch and Schumer, a New York Democrat, seeks to update the Wire Act to allow certain interstate wagers. The draft also proposes the creation of a new mechanism that could allow the Justice Department to target unlicensed, illegal offshore sports betting websites.

The timing of a vote still remains in question. Besides Hatch’s retirement, a leadership change in the House of Representatives could complicate matters.

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Vatican Says Using Gambling for Tax Revenue is Unethical

Casino Watch Focus has reported many times on various states expanding gambling as a means to collect tax revenue, often times at the expense of its own citizens. 100 years ago virtually all forms of gambling were illegal, but slowly, one state at a time, gambling has been made legal by states looking to take their cut of the action. Some gambling expansion takes the form of lotteries, other expansion measures are full-scale casinos. The sales pitch is typically the same, why not allow some harmless fun that will allow the state to bring in some much needed tax revenue, often times promised to local educational causes. Unfortunately, gambling is rarely simple fun and leads to out breaks of crime and addiction. As such, the Catholic Church has come out in opposition to generating tax revenue from gambling, calling it unethical. The Catholic Spirit reports:

Legalizing gambling fuels addictions, creating more and more compulsive gamblers, and using the industry as a source of tax revenue is unethical, said a major Vatican office.

“The legalization of gambling, even when it is supported by the intention of unmasking its criminal management, exponentially increases the number of pathological players,” said an introductory note to an international conference on drugs and addictions, organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

“Moreover, taxation by the state is to be considered incompatible from an ethical standpoint and contradictory in terms of prevention,” it said in the conference program, released Nov. 26.

“As the landscape of addictions diversifies, indifference and at times indirect complicity in this phenomenon contributes to diverting the attention of public opinion and governments, often focused on other emergencies,” it said. 

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


Florida Votes to End Dog Racing – What Comes Next?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the complicated decoupling issue masked as a simple greyhound ban that later officially became known as Amendment 13The amendment needed 60% voter approval to pass and it received 69%. At face, the Amendment will end live dog racing at the end of 2020, but many questions remain. The Amendment also decoupled the gambling requirements at those facilities from the actual live racing.   This means the facilities aren’t shut down completely, but they can offer simulcast races and slot machines and other prior authorized forms of gambling. The Orland Sentinel explains that some tracks will operate as these mini-casino’s, while others will have fewer options:

While all other tracks in Florida also have card rooms to supplement their dog-racing revenue, Sanford Orlando does not, making its future more tentative.

Florida’s 11 active dog tracks will have until Jan. 1, 2021, to phase out their live greyhound racing. They’ll still be able to race horses, if their tracks can accommodate the event, and they’ll still be able to have wagering on simulcast races from other tracks, including from dog tracks in the five remaining states where the practice is still active and legal.

The questions of how much gambling expansion will also need exploring thanks to the passage of Amendment 3, which will now require voter approval for new gambling. This is a bit of a grey area as it may seem clear that a new simulcast track may not be able to be built without voter approval (a key worry with decoupling as it would be far easier to set up a simulcast location and operate as a mini-casino via decoupling), but expanding the gambling at an existing location may be perfectly permitable. The key example is the number of slot machines. The Sun Sentinel explains how existing tracks could simply drastically increase their numbers as the amount allowed is already established: 

Dog track owners in Florida will be allowed to keep operating card rooms. They’ll be able to run slots in the case of dog tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. So, another result could be that track owners will use their space to expand restaurants and nightlife, or even casino floor space. In turn, the combination of anti-gambling expansion Amendment 3 and anti-dog racing Amendment 13 could mean already existing casinos offer more entertainment options for patrons. 

There already is an example of that. The Magic City Casino in Miami had been a dog track until last year, when the state Department of Business andProfessional Regulation gave it permission to convert to ajai-alai fronton.

The decision capped off a six-year legal fight between the casino and state regulators. With the jai-alai court taking up far less room than the track, Magic City Casino has plans to expand by putting the jai-alai court where its entertainment venue, Stage 305, is now and then building a much bigger entertainment venue on top of the old dog track.

The Big Easy Casino, a Hallandale Beach dog track, would have to stop racing within three years. What might be in store? An option for the Big Easy could be to expand lucrative slot machines. According to its own website, the casino currently offers “more than 500” slot machines. The upper limit for perimutuel casinos under state law is 2,000, though none of them at this point have approached that limit. 

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Florida Voters Pass Amendment 3 to take Control of Casino Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the evolution of the Voters in Charge which later officially became know under the title Amendment 3The Amendment sought to give the final approval of expanded gambling to the voters. If passed, new gambling would require approval of 60% of all Florida voters, which is clearly aimed at taking the power away from the politicians. The Amendment required 60% approval to pass and the Amendment 3 pass by an overwhelming amount. The Tampa Bay Times reports: 

Floridians will retain exclusive rights to authorize and potentially expand casino gambling in the state, including slot machines and electronic betting games.

Amendment 3, which garnered about 71 percent of the vote Tuesday, was proposed by Voters in Charge — a political committee largely financed by the Seminole Tribe and Disney.

The ballot initiative came about after the Legislature failed to agree on gambling decisions in recent years — particularly in the House, which is more opposed to gambling than the Senate.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce supports the amendment.

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