Category Archives: Tribal Gambling

GUEST ARTICLE: How the Florida House Gambling Bill is the More Sensible Approach

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling bills presented in this years Florida Legislature. Its very clear that both take very different approaches to the issue and a guest article published by Florida Politics by NoCasinos John Sowinski, breaks the issues down and concludes the House has the more sensible approach:

There are two things we can count on in Florida. In any given body of water, eventually the alligators will show up. And in any given meeting of the Florida Legislature, the same applies to gambling lobbyists. Feed either and they only become more insatiable.

With regard to the gambling interests, unfortunately, the Florida Senate is setting up a buffet of glutinous proportions. Proposed legislation calls for the biggest expansion of gambling in Florida’s history.

It literally would recreate our state in Nevada’s image, with casinos popping up in communities from the far reaches of the Panhandle to the end of the Everglades.

There would be two new Las Vegas-style casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade, a region already suffering from a glut of casinos. There would be a massive increase in gambling supply there, without a corresponding increase in gamblers, creating a dynamic in which the casinos could only survive by cannibalizing each other’s customers. Even the gambling industry’s own financial experts predict that 95 percent of the patrons would be locals, not tourists.

This type of gambling over-saturation is what brought the industry crashing down in Atlantic City, but not before it eviscerated existing local jobs and businesses from restaurants to retail stores.

But the Senate bill does not stop with more gambling in South Florida. Initially, casinos would spread to eight other counties. That only would be for starters because under Senate Bill 8, every horse track, dog track or jai alai fronton could become a casino.

Getting back to the alligator analogy, what the Senate is proposing is akin to taking 500 bags of marshmallows out into the middle of Lake Okeechobee at midnight and tossing them in the water….

Understanding this, leaders in the Florida House have taken a different tack. They have put forth a bill that fixes weaknesses in existing gambling law, closes loopholes that gambling lawyers continually exploit, stops the proliferation of slot machines throughout Florida, honors Florida’s constitutional restrictions on gambling, and respects the will of the people of Florida, who have consistently rejected statewide expansions of gambling. Finally, it provides for an agreement with the Seminole tribe that would achieve the stated intent of the original Seminole compact — holding the line on gambling and creating a firewall to stop the spread of casinos throughout Florida.

The entire article can be read HERE

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Seminole Tribe Say Both Florida Gambling Bills are Unacceptable

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts by the Florida Legislature to reach a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe. Most recentlythe balance of negotiating power shifted to the Seminole Tribe as a court has ruled the State violated the exclusivity agreement and is allowing the Seminole Tribe to offer table games through 2030. As another legislative session begins in the Florida Legislature, politicians are attempting to deal with gambling expansion issues while balancing the long standing relationship with the Seminole Tribe. As recently reported, both the Florida House and Senate have gambling bills moving forward, but they are very different and they both impact a potential new deal with the Seminole Tribe. The Tribe, while calling the House bill less objectionable, has indicated nether bill is one they can support. An online source explains:

Two competing bills in the Florida legislature each seek to find different solutions to the fact that tribe and state have been unable to negotiate a new compact since the previous one expired in 2015. The Seminoles this week rejected both, even the one that’s supposedly designed to protect their interests.

A bill currently wending its way through the House would allow the Seminoles to be granted exclusivity on banked card games, as was the case with its previous compact, but in exchange for $3 billion in payments to the state over seven years. By contrast, a bill authored by the influential senator, Bill Galvano, would charge the Seminoles the same fee over the same timeline but for the right to offer craps and roulette, as well as blackjack.

In a letter to legislative leaders this week, Seminole Tribal Council chairman Marcellus Osceola said that while the House bill was “less objectionable,” neither bills “make economic sense for the tribe.” We think they’re talking about the “$3 billion to the state” bit. The House bill is less objectionable because it is essentially a status quo bill, an antidote to the rampant gambling expansion of Galvano’s proposal. It’s clear that, for the Seminoles, the thought of exclusivity on craps and roulette would not offset the increased competition from the proliferation of blackjack and slots throughout the state. The tribe’s point-blank refusal is indicative of the its new-found leverage in the negotiations, thanks to a recent court ruling in their favor.

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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 State Sen. President Might Back Voter-Approved Slot Machines Which Could Further Complicate Seminole Compact Negotiations

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent voter-approved slot machines measures that could lead to an expansion of gambling in the state. The issue at hand is that the areas where these slot machines were voted on are not areas that the state has approved for gambling. A Florida Supreme Court ruling on the matter will likely clarify an existing and similar case by ruling that gambling expansion in Florida is limited by the constitution and must have approval of the legislature. However, there are signals that the new Florida State Senate President might actual back such voter-approved gambling expansion measures. The Sun Sentinel Explains: 

Voters in Duval and St. Lucie counties last month approved referendums to allow slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities, joining six other counties that had done so earlier. But the lucrative machines have not started whirling in the counties as the gambling industry, regulators and lawmakers watch a case at the Florida Supreme Court and legal issues involving the Seminole Tribe of Florida. At a breakfast meeting Tuesday with reporters, Negron said he thinks the Legislature should follow the will of voters if slot machines are approved in referendums.

There are implications beyond just the two pari-mutuel facilities mentioned. Allowing such expansion could also impact the Seminole Compact negotiations with Florida State as well. The Sun Sentinel continues:

But negotiations about a revised compact also could involve whether the tribe would have exclusive rights to offer slot machines outside of Broward and Miami-Dade counties — and how that would affect the counties where voters have approved referendums. Negron said Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is slated to become the next Senate president, will take the chamber’s lead in discussions about the compact. If a deal is reached with the tribe, it would have to be approved by the Legislature. 

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UPDATE: Florida States Asks Judge to Reconsider Seminole Compact Ruling, Judge Declines

Casino Watch Focus has reported that a Federal Judge recently ruled in favor of the Seminole Nation regarding the state’s gambling compact with them. The issue at hand involved exclusivity rights on table games the fact that Florida authorized them at other gambling facilities. That part of the compact has come to an end and a new one is being negotiated, but even prior to its end, they were allowing games that violated the compact. The judge said as a result, the Tribe could continue to offer table games through 2030. Of course, this means the Florida legislature is at a negotiating disadvantage with the Seminole’s as they attempt to forge a new compact. Knowing the position they are in does help to ensure they will attempt to get a new compact in place quickly, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to over turn the ruling and get back the negotiation leverage they lost. The Sun Sentinel explains: 

A federal judge has flatly refused a request from Gov. Rick Scott ‘s administration to reconsider a ruling that Florida violated a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a two-page order late Tuesday, less than a week after attorneys for Scott and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation submitted a 33-page document requesting changes in Hinkle’s Nov. 9 ruling in favor of the tribe.

“This case was tried to the court. A written opinion set out the court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. The defendant has moved to alter or amend the judgment,” Hinkle wrote in the order. “For the most part, the motion simply reargues the merits. The original opinion correctly analyzes the issues. This order denies the motion to alter or amend.”

In the request for reconsideration, attorneys for the state raised a series of issues about Hinkle’s November ruling, including disputing his conclusion that “designated player games” meet the definition of banked card games and, as a result, violate the 2010 agreement. But attorneys for the tribe countered Friday by urging Hinkle to reject the state’s request for reconsideration. “The court found that the designated player games are ‘banked card games’ based upon reasonable interpretations of (federal and state laws), common understanding of the term in the gaming industry, testimony of both expert and lay witnesses, and legislative history,” the tribe’s attorneys wrote in a six-page document. “The state ignores virtually all of that evidence, disregards the court’s reasoning, and presents its argument as though there had been no comprehensive briefing on the relevant issues and no trial.”

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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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UPDATE: Judge Rules Florida State Violated Seminole Gambling Compact and Allows Them to Offer Table Games through 2030

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing dealings of the exclusive gambling compact between Florida State and the Seminole Tribe. The compact granted the Seminoles exclusivity of table games in exchange for direct monetary compensation to the state. This limited table games like blackjack to their casinos, despite other state approved gambling venues existing and often expanding over the years. The case at hand involves the allowance of table games at various pari-mutuel locations since 2011. The South Florida Reporter explains:

The state of Florida’s misplay of allowing “designated player” games at racetrack card rooms has turned out to be quite fortuitous for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, but it also might provide the spark needed to goose along a long-term gambling deal statewide.

A U.S. judge ruled on Wednesday that that state violated terms of its deal with the Seminoles, which allowed the tribe exclusive rights to blackjack and other table games.

Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that when racetrack card rooms started their versions of Ultimate Texas Hold ‘em, 3-Card Poker and Texas Hold ‘em, 3-Card Poker those games cut into the $250 million annual monopoly the tribe negotiated with the state. The state has permitted banked card games since 2011, and formally approved them in 2014, Hinkle wrote.

When the compact was originally signed in 2010, the blackjack portion was for only five years. It expired in July 2015, and the Seminoles have filed suit saying the state has not negotiated in good faith.

The judges ruling viewed those card games as a direct violation of the agreement and he is allowing them to continue providing those games until 2030. An appeal of the ruling doesn’t seem likely. The South Florida Reporter continues:

“The order declares that the exception has been triggered — that the tribe may conduct banked card games for the compact’s 20-year term,” Hinkle wrote. For those lacking a calendar, that means blackjack until 2030.

Hinkle called the games, in which a player stands in for the bank, an “egregious example of the cardrooms’ attempt to evade the prohibition on banked card games.” They are offered in about half of Florida’s card rooms and take in an estimated $15 million of the state’s $147 million annual poker revenues.

Don’t look for an appeal. Hinkle’s ruling was carefully worded, and covered every point. It was almost as though he were trying to write an appeal-proof ruling, although state officials say they are reviewing it.

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