Category Archives: Online Gambling

Covid Concerns in Florida are Driving Discussions of Legalized Mobile Sports Betting Via Tribal Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various attempts at legalizing sports betting in Florida.  Most efforts have thus far failed, including attempts during the legislative session to open it at casinos.  Now that the coronavirus has shut down the economy and is keeping people indoors, the focus seems to have shifted to mobile sports betting.  An online source reports:  

The Seminole Tribe is currently in talks with state legislators to draft proposals on regulating mobile sports betting in the Sunshine State. The fallout from COVID-19 has devastated economic activity and led to widespread unemployment across Florida. In an attempt to make up the budget shortfalls, Florida legislators are eyeing out-of-the-box proposals such as regulated online betting activity.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns and operates the hugely successful Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. As lawmakers continue to work feverishly on crafting a budget for 2020/2021, unforeseen expenses and the shuttering of non-essential economic activity has ramped up financial pressures on state coffers. According to the New York Times, there are currently over 36,000+ cases of coronavirus in Florida, with 1,378+ deaths, and rising.

This push is viewed as a financial boon for the city looking for quick tax money and a financial windfall for the Seminole Tribe.  The estimates are in the hundreds of millions, but its still unclear if such gambling would actually be legal, given the amendment passed by Florida voters that requires a vote on new gambling expansion.  The online source continues: 

Nonetheless, it has widely been reported that the Seminole Tribe will be paying the $500 million for the first year and the $700 million every year thereafter to the state of Florida for exclusivity vis-a-vis online sports betting services.

Lawmakers hope that legislation permitting mobile sports betting can mitigate the effects of severe budget shortfalls that are currently being experienced. Back in 2018, Florida voters decided by a margin of 71%-29% that they will have the final say on any further gambling expansion a.k.a. /Amendment 3./

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Super Bowl LIV (53) expected to break all previous gambling records…but at what cost?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the significant about of gambling on the Super Bowl each year, and Super Bowl 53 is poised to be the most impactful yet.  When the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers take the field, there will be more states with legalized sports betting than ever.  As a result, experts see record amounts of money being bet on this year’s game. Fox Business breaks down the numbers:

About 26 million Americans are expected to bet on the game through various means, including brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and online platforms, the American Gaming Association said. The record total marks a 15 percent increase compared to the estimated betting turnout from last year’s game, which drew wagers from approximately 22.7 million Americans.

The bets will be worth an estimated $6.8 billion, up from $6 billion last year. The projected total includes both legal betting venues, such as brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, and illegal methods, such as bookies and offshore mobile platforms.

Many think gambling on the Super Bowl is harmless fun, and for some, who do it legally, it could be that simple. However, the consequences for others can be extreme. A Fox News affiliate has reported that Super Bowl night is not only the biggest night for gamblers, but it also sees the most suicides as well. For those that don’t suffer the ultimate fate, they can still lose enough to cause irreparable harm to their finances and family. Fox Now online explains:

“Super Bowl is probably one of the biggest gambling days of the year,” said Gambling Addiction Counselor, Jim Harrison [a gambling counselor in Milwaukee.] He says the wagers placed on the Super Bowl are often not taken as seriously and can be seen as harmless and fun. “In reality it is betting, it is gambling,” said Harrison. Those compulsive gamblers see it as a day to make up for other sports losses this season.

Harrison says it’s not harmless at all for those with an addiction — betting is done with bookies and online and it could bring losses. “If it causes family problems, certainly financial problems,” said Harrison. “I’ve had clients who have literally lost over $300,000 gambling,” said Harrison. The Super Bowl can bring losses to those betting on it all, and it can be tempting to those dealing with gambling addiction.

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UPDATE: DOJ Wire Act/Online Gambling Case Advances as Court Calls for Briefs

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to restore the original interpretation of the Wire Act. The Wire Act is the law responsible for the regulation of online gambling. Prior to a shocking reversal by the Obama Administration, the Wire Act made online gambling illegal. Their new interpretation claimed the law only applied to sports betting, meaning all other online gambling suddenly became legal. The Department of Justice under the Trump Administration is working toward restoring the original interpretation, thus making online gambling illegal. Their decision was challenged in court and overturned, but quickly appealed. That court has now called for briefs by each side. An online source explains:

The lawsuit over the *Wire Act and its applicability to online gambling is far from over. In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit just set the briefing schedule for William P. Barr, United States Attorney General and the United States Department of Justice. The First Circuit is requiring Barr and the DOJ to file their briefs and other necessary paperwork by Nov. 12.

With that in mind — and according to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure 31(a) — the New Hampshire Lottery Commission along with the other state lotteries and vendors that joined the suit have 30 days thereafter to respond after the DOJ files its brief. The DOJ’s reply brief is then due within 21 days after the plaintiffs respond.

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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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UPDATE: Congress Looks to Defund the DOJ’s Ability to Enforce its Online Gambling Interpretation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Department of Justice’s Wire Act interpretation as it relates to online gambling. The Trump Administration looked to return to the original interpretation of the wire act, which effectively bans all online gambling. The need arose because the Obama Administration reinterpreted the wire act to only apply to sports betting, thus legalizing all other forms of online gambling. Both sides of the debate claim the wire act’s plain language allows for their interpretation, but thus far, Congress has yet to pass any new, or straightforward legislation that would clear the issue up. However, Congress does appear to be getting involved, but in a most unusual manner. A new amendment has been proposed that takes away the DOJ’s funding for enforcement of its new interpretation. An online source explains:  

Rules Committee members filed an amendment this week regarding an appropriations bill that will block funding that would be used to enforce the new Wire Act interpretation. The primary sponsor of the amendment is Representative Hank Johnson. He is joined by Representative Sanford Bishop and Representative Andy Barr as sponsors.

The proposal wastes no time and gets right to the point, stating that none of the funds made available by the Act may be used to enforce the new memorandum titled Reconsidering Whether the Wire Act Applies to Non-Sports Gambling.

The amendment is to be voted on this week and while it will not affect the law in general, it will prevent the Department of Justice from enforcing their new opinion.

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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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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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