Category Archives: Tribal Gambling

Guest Article:  Editorial: Florida gaming deal goes to court. One verdict is in: Lawmakers’ contempt for voters

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing sports betting saga taking place in Florida and today’s guest article on this matter is an editorial by Florida’s Finger Lake Times:  

Two Miami business leaders went to court this week in Washington, D.C., in an effort to stop the expansion of gambling in Florida — and to stand up for voters, since the Legislature and governor are doing just the opposite.

Developer Armando Codina and auto retailer Norman Braman, two of the state’s fiercest and most well-heeled gambling opponents, filed suit — along with the group No Casinos — against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. The suit accuses the federal government of allowing the state to circumvent the Florida Constitution when it approved a new gaming deal this year — including off-reservation sports betting — with the Seminole Tribe. The suit also contends that Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature violated federal laws by authorizing gambling outside of Indian lands, among other claims.

We believe there’s little doubt that lawmakers and gambling interests crafted the deal precisely to get around the 2018 constitutional amendment that voters approved — by an unheard-of 72% — that specified the electorate must determine if there are more casinos in Florida…

Unless the courts stop this deal, more casino gambling will be allowed at existing facilities. The Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock casinos in Broward and Hillsborough counties would be able to morph into full Las Vegas-style casinos with the addition of roulette and craps. No Casinos calls this the biggest gambling expansion in Florida history.

Yet, that’s not all. Even more alarming is the part of the deal where the Seminole Tribe says it won’t object to any new casino license as long as it’s at least 18 miles from its Hard Rock Casino near Hollywood.

Guess what? Both the Fontainebleau hotel and resort in Miami Beach and Trump’s National Doral Miami golf resort — both have indicated they would like to see a new law that would let them transfer a gambling license from an existing parimutuel to their properties — fall conveniently outside that magic 18-mile boundary line.

As Codina told the Herald, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how this movie is ending.”

Agreed.

The full article can be read HERE

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


New Lawsuit filed to block Florida’s Oct 15th Sports Betting Expansion

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent sports betting legalization in Florida by means of its new Seminole Gambling Compact, and on the subsequent opposition.  A pair of Florida parimutuel companies have been leading the legal charge against Florida and the Seminole Gambling compact they entered into with the Tribe.  The issue, of course, stems from the inappropriate sports gambling expansion that will take place off reservation, gambling that requires the express consent of the Florida voters before it can be enacted.  The argument has been if the location of the online servers being on tribal land is enough to call it tribal gambling, or if the fact that anyone in the state having access to this gambling subjects it to constitutional voter approval.  Florida has moved forward with its plans to initiate and regulate sports gambling and have set Oct 15th as the date.  A new lawsuit by the same companies essentially seeks an injunction to hold off such gambling until the lawsuits can be heard.  The Miami-Herald explains:

Two Florida pari-mutuels filed a new motion in federal district court in Washington late Tuesday, asking a judge to block implementation of online sports betting under the Florida tribal gaming compact which is scheduled to begin later this year.

The motion, filed by Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, asks a court to enjoin the sports-betting portion of the state’s compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The plaintiffs allege that although the Department of the Interior allowed the compact to take effect, the court should reverse that decision and block implementation until a legal sports-betting compact is established for Florida.

Although the Florida statute sets an Oct. 15 start date for tribal sports betting, a footnote in the lawsuit states that “representatives of the Tribe have informed Plaintiffs that the Tribe will not implement online sports betting until November 15, 2021.”

The court has scheduled a Nov. 5 hearing date to hear oral arguments on the Magic City motion for summary judgment with the goal of blocking the launch of online sports betting in Florida.

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


Could the Florida Seminole Gambling Compact Sports Betting Case lead to a Massive Expansion of Gambling Around the Country?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing events surrounding the legalization of sports betting in Florida via the new gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe.  The implications of the new BIA ruling allowing online gambling to gamblers who simply link to servers located on tribal land, without regard to the gamblers physical location, could be profound.  The government claims their view is simply an updated view of how online gambling should work, but clearly its a method of usurping the Florida Constitution that expressly forbids expanded gambling without the vote of the people.  What kind of precedent will this set for other states?  An online source breaks down the Nationwide implications:

The Seminole deal seeks to be the nation’s first compact that permits off-tribal land gaming under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the sweeping legislation that regulates tribal gaming nationwide. The compact language also would permit certain aspects, such as the brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, to stand even if online components are denied.

If online sports betting is approved, Florida would eclipse Pennsylvania as the nation’s most-populated legal digital wagering state. With California and Texas unlikely to approve mobile sports betting until 2025 or later, it’s a title the Sunshine State should hold for years to come. Along with more than 21-million residents, Florida averages more than 100 million tourism visits annually. Mobile wagering from Pensacola to Key West could create a market that reverberates beyond just the state itself.

Mobile sports betting authorization for the Seminoles could mean hundreds of other tribes could pursue digital gaming options of their own. Legal battles would surely follow, but an internet-friendly definition of wagering “on tribal lands” could mean every state with a recognized tribe has at least an argument for digital sportsbooks, lottery and casinos.

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


UPDATE: Seminole Gambling Compact Officially Approved by Federal Government

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to ratify the Seminole Gambling Compact with Florida.  Most provisions were along similar lines as past compacts, but the sudden inclusion of online sports gambling to be regulated by the Seminole’s created an immediate controversy.  The compact is attempting to legalize mobile sports gambling which is illegal in Florida and must be voted on by the people to become legal.  The state of course claims the gambling servers for sports betting on Tribal land, so it’s irrelevant if the gamblers are off site and located in Florida which is illegal.  The Government had 45 days to approve, deny, or not take action, which defaults to allowing the compact.  The 45 days has passed, thus the compact has officially been approved.  An online source reports;  

On Friday, the top-ranking official in the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) wrote to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Tribe Chairman Marcellus Osceola that the compact those leaders signed on April 23 is “considered to have been approved” without action by the BIA, which declined to affirmatively approve it during a 45-day review period but also did not reject it.

Bryan Newland, head of the BIA, wrote: “After thorough review under IGRA, we have taken no action to approve or disapprove the Compact before August 5, 2021, the 45th day. As a result, the Compact is considered to have been approved by operation of law to the extent that it complies with IGRA and existing Federal law. The Compact will become effective upon the publication of notice in the Federal Register.”

The most controversial component of the compact legalizes mobile sports betting — individuals placing digital bets on sporting events via mobile devices, but not engaging with other players in internet-based games referred to as online gambling — everywhere in the state, but it deems those bets to have been made on tribal land where the file servers will process them. The arrangement is called “hub and spoke,” with servers on tribal land being the hub and devices across the state being the spokes.

This news is disappointing to many, including NO Casino’s, the watchdog organization that was instrumental in getting the Florida Amendment passed that requires a vote of the people to expand gambling.  Now that its official, they plan to put forth litigation to correct the over ruling.  The online source continues:

[T]he sports betting provision will face legal challenges arguing that the hub-and-spoke arrangement is a fiction designed to usurp Florida’s ban on expanding gambling without prior voter approval.John Sowinski, president of No Casinos, vowed to fight the compact in federal and state courts, chiefly to defend Florida Constitutional Amendment 3 passed by voters in 2018 to outlaw expansions of gambling without prior voter approval.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Department of Interior took no action on the compact between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” Sowinski wrote in a statement Friday to the Phoenix. “While this inaction means that it is deemed approved by the Department of Interior, it does not change the fact that this compact violates multiple federal laws as well as the Florida Constitution.

“The 2018 constitutional mandate of 72 percent of Florida voters could not be clearer,” Sowinski continued. “Only Florida voters, not politicians in Tallahassee or Washington, have the power to expand gambling in Florida. This issue will have its day in both state and federal courts, where we are confident that this compact will be overturned. We are committed to ensuring that the people of Florida will always have the final say on gambling as required by Florida’s Amendment 3.”

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


Guest Editorial: Gaming companies placed a $62 million bet against Florida voters. Don’t let them win

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various attempts to expand gambling in Florida.  After a successful Amendment to the Florida Constitution, new gambling in the state must be approved by the voters.  So far, 4 different initiative potions dealing with gambling have been successfully funded to find their way on the ballot.  The Miami Herald Editorial Board has come out strongly in opposition and is warning Florida voters to avoid being deceived by all these gambling expansion measures.  Read below and for the full article, click HERE:

Consider yourself warned, Florida. The door has been flung wide open for more gambling and everyone is scrambling to get a piece of the action. How else to explain this astonishing piece of news: Gambling interests pumped a whopping $62 million in political contributions last month into groups and efforts that could influence the future of sports betting and casino gambling via ballot initiatives in 2022, according to a Miami Herald story.

With that kind of money on the table, the potential market in Florida must be huge. No doubt much of this interest springs from the Legislature’s easy approval this year of a $500 million gambling deal negotiated between the Gov. Ron Desantis and the Seminole Tribe.

Out-of-state, sports-gaming companiesFanDuel and DraftKings are each in for a cool $10 million, money they put into a political committee pushing to expand online sports betting across the state. They were iced out of the Seminole deal.

The Las Vegas Sands, a powerful new player, dropped $17 million into a political committee linked to two ballot issues for more casinos. Sources told the Herald that the company is interested in purchasing existing parimutuel licenses to open casinos in Jacksonville and other northern Florida spots.

Miami’s Magic City Casino anted up $15 million for its own political committee, official purpose unspecified. And the Seminole Tribe, winner of the last round of Gambling Gone Wild in this state, put $10 million into yet another political committee, mostly likely to defend its crown…

The timing of this slew of cash isn’t a coincidence. A new law was supposed to go into effect July 1 to limit contributions for signature-gathering — a requirement to get a proposed amendment on the ballot — to a paltry $3,000 per organization. But a lawsuit was filed, and a federal judge temporarily blocked the law just as it was about to go into effect…

It’s not completely clear yet which organization wants what next year. But the Miami Herald sketched it out this way:

FanDuel and DraftKings are looking for their own online sports betting deal to be approved by Florida voters. The Seminole Tribe wants to be ready to defend its 30-year gaming deal, which is still awaiting approval from the federal government. The Sands organization is eyeing casinos in northern Florida. And Magic City’s stake is designed to make sure parimutuels have a place at the table.

If that sounds like the state is being carved up like a roast at Sunday dinner, well, we agree…

But more gambling is not yet a done deal in this state. Getting a constitutional amendment onto the ballot in Florida isn’t easy. And any amendment must pass with at least 60 percent of the vote. No matter how much money the gambling companies throw at Florida, voters still have the final say.

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


Congressional attempts to redefine Tribal Gambling to allow Florida Gambling Compact Underway

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to pass a legal gambling compact in Florida with the Seminole Tribe, however, the new mobile sports betting provision has sparked opposition and now formal lawsuits to stop such action. Federal law allows for tribal gambling, but there are limitations and the current regulatory language and legal precedent are fairly clear that tribal gambling must be on tribal land, making online or mobile gambling outside of the legal purview if the gambling in question is not legal in the state where mobile/internet gamblers could be located.  The Florida Seminole compact is facing two current lawsuits and is under review by the Federal Government, but two Congressional lawmakers are taking action to quickly change federal tribal gambling regulation to allow the Seminole Compact to circumvent the lawsuits and the Florida constitution.  An online source reports:

Two congressmen have filed legislation that would seek to help more tribal casinos implement online gaming. US Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) issued a statement into the Congressional Record  Thursday to introduce HR 4308 

“This bill would clarify that, for purposes of tribal government gaming, the location of the wager occurs at the location of the server, unless a state and Indian tribe otherwise agree,” Correa said in his remarks.

“Making this clarification will keep intact the current system of tribal gaming and eliminate any frivolous litigation.”

The bill announcement occurred one day before a federal lawsuit was filed in Florida. That lawsuit seeks to stop the amended tribal gaming compact that would give the Seminole Tribe exclusive statewide mobile sports betting rights in that state.

It’s unclear how successful this blatant attempt to circumvent pending litigation and the Florida constitution will be given the time frame, but this isn’t the first time online-type tribal federal legislation has been filed.  However, those attempts have all failed.  Those attempts were more broad in scope, but still couldn’t receive the support needed.  Time will tell if this avenue impacts the current course of the Seminole compact.  

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


Florida’s Seminole Gambling Compact Faces Federal Approval and Many Believe Tribal Gambling Laws and the Florida Constitution make the Sports Gambling Provisions Invalid

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments in the approval of the newly negotiated Florida gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe.  While most agree the compact is a key and necessary part of balancing gambling expansion in Florida, many believe this compact has gone too far to expand gambling, most specifically in regards to statewide Sports gambling.  The Compact has been passed by the Florida Legislature and the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and now it goes before the Federal Government.  An online source explains:

The Department of the Interior oversees tribal-state gambling “compacts,” such as the one that Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. signed April 23 and sent to lawmakers for approval. Once the compact is submitted, the Department of the Interior has 45 days to approve the plan, reject it or allow it to go into effect without the federal agency’s action.

Federal officials will “look at the compact and see if there are any provisions in there that are problematic,” said George Skibine, whose lengthy career with the Department of the Interior included a stint as director of the Office of Indian Gaming.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires that covered gaming activities occur on “Indian lands,” Skibine noted. The deal with the Seminoles may turn out to be a national test case for other tribal compacts, he said.

Clearly there are past examples in other states that looked at a similar issue, and they concluded all gambling must take place on tribal land.  There are two other examples of mobile gambling involving tribal land, but both of those cases involve the tribes letting the state government handle the regulations and taxation of the gambling.  This Florida case just isn’t the same as those given that the Seminole Tribe is fully regulating sports betting and the Florida constitution currently prohibits sports betting in Florida and would require a statewide vote of the people to establish it as legal gambling.  An online source explains:

So how come Arizona and Connecticut have a clear path forward and the Seminoles do not? The key is regulatory structure.

A group of Arizona tribes and Gov. Doug Ducey announced a compact and companion legislation earlier this year that allows the tribes to open retail and online sportsbooks, among other gaming expansion options. The federal Department of the Interior has already approved the retail sportsbook components of the deal.

Critically, the compact didn’t include online betting and the tribes agreed to let Arizona government officials regulate, license and tax their online sportsbooks under a separate bill approved by the legislature.

Connecticut’s two gaming tribes and Gov. Ned Lamont announced a similar deal this year that’s now awaiting formal federal government approval. Just like Arizona’s tribes, Connecticut’s Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes agreed to separate online casino gaming and sports betting from the compact’s retail betting language.

Conversely, Florida’s compact gives the Seminoles rights to online sports betting through its own digital platform and to partner with pari-mutuel facilities for additional mobile skins. Federal law and subsequent court rulings make it seem the Seminoles don’t have authorization for online sports betting under a compact, leading many to believe federal officials will strip those provisions from the agreement.

Moreover, IGRA very clearly outlines that the gambling activity must take place on Tribal land or must be the same gambling that the state already recognizes as legal.  Some have argued that in an attempt to rush the deal, they didn’t follow current models for proper gambling compacts, and are at real risk of rejection by the Federal Government.  The source concludes:

This strict interpretation of IGRA within the language of the law and ensuing court rulings has limited gaming to physical options on tribal lands. All states that offer or have approved any form of regulated online tribal gaming, such as Arizona, Connecticut and Michigan, have done so independent of federal compacting law. Instead, these tribes maintain autonomy over in-person gaming for their brick-and-mortar gaming options and act like commercial operators for their online options.

Daniel Wallach, a Florida-based gaming attorney and sports betting legal analyst, told the Action Network the Seminoles and Florida policymakers could have followed the model established in other states. Instead, trying to shoehorn online sports betting authorization under federal law jeopardizes its very legality.

“Michigan and Arizona have acknowledged this jurisdictional limitation and crafted a solution that appears to satisfy IGRA,” Wallach said. “Florida, on the other hand, has brazenly ignored the plain and unambiguous language of IGRA, and has set up a flawed system that is on a fast track to a federal court rebuke.”

Florida’s Miami-Beach Mayor Dan Gelber was equally blunt with his rhetoric in a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior.  The Tampa Bay times provides excerpts of his letter:

“I support the goals of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (’IGRA’), namely, to provide Native American tribes with a pathway to greater independence and economic vitality. But the Florida Compact you are considering was not crafted in pursuit of those goals,” Gelber wrote in a nine-page letter to Deb Haaland, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“It was simply a vehicle hijacked by non-tribal casino interests who fully corrupted the legislative and executive process in order to obtain advantages outside of tribal land and in direct contravention to the interests of Floridians.”

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


Experts warn that Florida’s Seminole Gambling Compact Introduces Massive Gambling Expansion, but Leaves Problem Gamblers without Vital Resources

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to secure a new gambling compact between the Seminole Tribe and the Florida Government.  Recently a new compact was agreed upon and has been approved by the Florida Legislature and Governor.  If the bill makes it past federal approval, it represents a massive expansion in gambling.  Despite the normal political battles that such legislation brings, three is a serious health element that experts warn is being completely overlooked.  Aid for compulsive gamblers wasn’t addressed in the compact or the special legislative session that pushed the compact through.  This is of dire concern for problem gambling experts.  Florida Politics reports:

While the Legislature pushed through the Seminole Compact and gambling bills to support it, the matter of dealing with compulsive gambling drew alarm, debate, promises, but no action.

“If the Compact survives scrutiny at the federal level and the legal challenges, this is going to be a major expansion of gaming opportunities in the state of Florida, just in the sports betting alone,” said *Richard* *Pinsky*, a lobbyist for the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. “Florida is not prepared right now for the impact that it will have upon families and individuals.”

Florida’s main response, through the Council, is a gambling prevention program helpline, 1-888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848). Set up initially to assist compulsive gamblers in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, it is woefully unprepared to handle statewide action; it was never fully funded even for its intended purpose. “I can show you the actual transcripts (of calls) that would wrench your heart,” Pinsky told a House committee last week. 

Pinsky warned that “thousands and thousands” of Floridians will fall into compulsive gambling problems. And he believes that will grow fastest among younger generations. “The younger demographic, that’s exactly who does sports wagering and fantasy sports,” Pinsky said. “College students and those under 30. And they’re also the most at-risk group.”

Florida’s gambling prevention program has not been updated since 2005 when it was initiated as a response to the legalization of slot machines in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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


Florida Legislature Approves Seminole Gambling Compact, Legalizing Mobile Sports Betting, and Many in Florida aren’t Happy

Casino Watch Focus has reported closely followed the recent advancement of the Seminole Gambling Compact and its inclusion of mobile sports betting.  The issue at stake is the legislator attempting to expand gamblining in violation of the Florida constitution, which requires a vote of the people to approve new gambling.  With the writing on the wall, many have made their positions known and now its all but official, as the Compact has passed the legislature and simply needs Gov. DeSantis’ signature, which will be forthcoming.  Not all believe it will pass, and many are speaking out.  The Orlando Sentinel’s Editorial Board outlined the opposition position:

The Florida Legislature just passed a gambling law they /know/ has a good chance of being struck down in court, or at least the sports betting part of the law that got the most attention.

You don’t have to believe us. Take it from state Rep. Randy Fine, who led the House Select Committee on Gaming and said this about sports betting after the bill passed: “Me personally, I don’t think it’s going to survive.”

The reason Fine made such an extraordinary concession on the House floor is because of the high likelihood that, under Florida’s constitution, sports betting needs to be approved by Florida’s voters, not elected legislators.

He didn’t say it, but there’s also a decent chance the bill’s legalization of craps and roulette games at Florida’s existing casinos also will be challenged in court and found unconstitutional. Same for the part that lays the groundwork for transferring gambling licenses from race tracks to other locations.

The problem in this case is that both sides seemed to ignore the clear language of the Florida Constitution, with some clearly just moving the bill along assuming that the courts would take care of the issue.  The lack of serious debate around the constitutionality of the issue has also brought the ire of those who believe the will of the constitution and the people shouldn’t be disregarded in such a cavalier manner.  The Editorial Board continues:

In 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment — by a remarkable 71.5% margin — that gave voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.” That means putting the question of additional gambling in front of the voters and letting /them/ say yes or no.

The language of that amendment clearly states the referendum requirement applies to what’s known as Class III gambling, and sports betting is defined under federal law as Class III gambling. So are craps and roulette. So, these things need voter approval to become part of Florida’s gambling landscape.

That single, central issue should have been a hotly debated point of this week’s three-day special session to approve a new gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe. In an astonishing display of bipartisan disregard for the will of Florida’s voters, the House passed gambling expansion Wednesday by an overwhelming vote of 97-17 with loads of Democrats jumping on the Republican-led bandwagon. Tuesday’s Senate vote was even more lopsided: 38-1. The lone no vote came from Pinellas County Republican Jeff Brandes.

Is it any wonder the public is so cynical about politics? Were voters really not clear in 2018 about what they wanted? What the governor and Legislature have done is cooked up a deal they know is constitutionally suspect, and now the courts will have to clean up the mess they’ve made.

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


Sports Betting in Florida via Seminole Compact to be Challenged in Court upon Passage, but can a Challenge Survive the Politics of the Deal?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the efforts to pass a new Seminole gambling compact in Florida and on the various attempts to legalize sports betting.  Now, the new Seminole compact has become the avenue for sports betting and if ratified by the Florida legislature in a special session, would become legal in the state.  Should that happen, legal challenges are essentially guaranteed.  The issue at hand is that sports betting would not simply be offered on Seminole property, which could be argued isn’t Florida proper and thus not under the recently passed Amendment 3 which requires all new gambling to be approved by a vote of the people, but instead all over the state via mobile gambling.  At that point it’s fairly clear that the gambling is happening in Florida and thus subject to a vote of the people prior to becoming low.  As previously explained, the State believes that because the servers for the mobile gambling are on tribal lands, its not in Florida.  However, as previously reported, a federal lawsuit regarding a similar issue in California concluded that gambling must be legal both where it originates and where the person gambling is located.  No Casinos, who released an ad campaign reminding everyone of the law, outlines why they plan to bring a legal challenge and why its argument is backed by various laws.  An online source explains:

No Casinos argues the arrangement runs counter to a couple of federal laws.

The Federal Wire Act holds, Sowinski said, “that a telephonic or electronic or online transaction of any sort occurs in two places: the place where the person originating the transaction is and the place where the person receiving the transaction is. It has to be legal in both of those places in order to be a legal transaction. That includes gambling, as well.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act holds that tribes can’t offer games not otherwise legal within a state. The compact would legalize sports betting on the Seminole land, Sowinski acknowledged, but he insisted allowing play statewide implicates Amendment 3 and would require a statewide referendum.

“The Legislature doesn’t have the authority to authorize that today within the state, and therefore, according to federal law, they can’t negotiate to put that on the tribal land,” Sowinski said.

The concern, of course, is that the language that allows for negotiations of a gambling compact in the first place, supersedes the provisions in those particular laws.  If that part of the argument does produce a court ruling that pushes that provision to the people for a vote, it’s believed that the case would be appealed, and then the local and national politics of the deal come into play.  If that’s the case, the federal precedent established in the federal case in CA requiring that the gambling in question must take place where both parties have the legal ability to do so, might not be much help in the end.  The source concludes:

Even if a trial judge buys the No Casino argument, the state could appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which is packed with Donald Trump appointees (including two DeSantis had earlier placed on the Florida Supreme Court but whom Trump promoted), will certainly overrule, Jarvis predicted.

“And the U.S. Supreme Court, of course, is a Trump-appointed court. Trump has made it clear that he wants this deal. DeSantis has made it clear that he wants this deal.”

Federal agencies too, including the Department of the Interior (DOI), headed by Native American Deb Haaland, and its Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), also are going to accept the deal, he predicts.

The California case set federal precedent and the newly passed Florida Amendment 3 to the constitution shows clear intent by the voters to want to approve new gambling in the state, which would clearly include mobile sports betting.  Most believe the compact will get ratified, so time will tell how the legal challenges will shake out.  

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


‘No Casino’ Group’s New Ad Campaign Reminds Politicians and the Florida Public who gets the Final vote in Sports Betting – Pointing out one of the biggest issues with the new Seminole Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to solidify a new Seminole Compact.  The agreement addressed many exclusivity deals that help regulate and prevent gambling expansion in Florida.  However, many have seen this as an opportunity to include sports betting, which while giving exclusive rights to the Seminole Casinos, would also be a new form of gambling and one that the Florida constitution expressly requires a vote of the people to become law.  The state is trying to circumvent the constitution, but No Casino group has released an ad campaign to remind them of the law.  Florida Politics reports:

No Casinos is launching a new statewide ad campaign to warn Floridians about the new Seminole Compact, which opens sports betting the group says illegally expands gambling in violation of the Florida Constitution.

The Orlando-based anti-gambling group argues the deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis late last month and could be finalized during a Special Legislative Session starting May 17, lets “politicians and gambling lobbyists, instead of voters, authorize a massive expansion of gambling” in the Sunshine State. “Not politicians. Not lobbyists. You,” the ad leads off. “That’s the law. But gambling lobbyists want politicians to break it.”

No Casinos specifically cite the Amendment 3 constitutional mandate passed in 2018 by 72% of Florida voters. The amendment gives Floridians “the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.”

The sports betting provision isn’t limited to the casinos either, but instead allows for mobile gambling all over the state.  This is the very type of gambling expansion that No Casinos contends the Florida constitution is designed to prevent without the express approval of voters.  Florida Politics explains:

Despite that explicit provision, the group says an expansion of sports betting could turn every cellphone into a “slot machine.”

“Their plan: Casinos. Sports betting. Even slot machines on cell phones,” the ad continues. “It’ll be like ‘internet cafes’ all over again.” The only thing missing? Your approval,” the ad concludes with a call to action. “Voter approval of gambling is the law. Tell your legislator: Don’t break it.”

“Voters were crystal clear that they wanted the final say on gambling expansion in Florida, and we’re letting them know that this proposed compact is a blatant violation of the constitution and the will of the people,” No Casinos President John Sowinski said in a statement. The ad — titled “People, Not Politicians” — will run both online and on cable TV in key markets statewide.

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


Proposed Florida Legislation Seeks to Expand Gambling Through Various Decoupling Efforts

Casino Watch Focus has reported on various efforts to expand gambling in Florida through a process known as decoupling.  Currently most gambling in Florida is either through tribal casinos or allowed at facilities that complement live horse and dog racing.  Decoupling occurs when those two items no longer need be paired in order for the gambling to be legalized.  A facility could get a gambling permit for slot machines, but not need to have the dog or horse racing.  Florida voters passed an Amendment that made live greyhound racing illegal.  Those facilities have other gambling on-site and the issue of whether they can be decoupled has been contemplated.  A new set of bills have been introduced that seeks to decouple the greyhound industry but also expand gambling through decoupling other gambling activities as well.  Florida Politics explains:

The House Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would decouple casino gambling permits not just from dog racing tracks that are out of business but from jai alai frontons and harness racing tracks as well.

PCB 21-05, introduced by Republican Rep. Chris Latvala, is one of three gaming-related proposed committee bills introduced Wednesday in the Commerce Committee. Chair Rep. *Blaise Ingoglia* advised they were being floated only as just-in-case measures, should the Legislature take up gambling in this Session. Another bill, PCB 21-03, would create a Florida Gaming Control Commission and give it broad oversight and enforcement authority over Florida gaming. A third bill, PCB 21-04, would exempt some of the commission’s records from public records. 

Those two bills flew through the Commerce Committee with little discussion and no opposition. PCB 21-05 drew heated debate. It deals with the aftermath of Florida voter approval of a greyhound racing ban in 2018. Those dog tracks are closed or closing, but some still have game rooms. But Florida law says those game rooms must be coupled with pari-mutuel operations, and the racing is gone. The bill would decouple greyhound track companies’ casinos from the race tracks. Yet the bill extends the same decoupling to jai alai frontons, which nearly are gone in Florida, and to harness racing tracks, which supports the quarter horse community.

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


Miami Beach Mayor Worried about New Casinos Being Discussed in Backdoor Meetings, but Could a New Trump Casino or Other Really Come to Fruition?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing attempts to expand gambling via a new Vegas-Style casino in the Miami area.  Most attempts are geared toward establishing new casinos, but now discussions are underway that seek to transfer existing licenses to new jurisdictions.  Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is speaking out in hopes of bringing the process to light.  The Miami-Herald reports:

Republican leaders in Tallahassee are quietly considering an effort to allow casino owners to transfer gambling licenses to venues in locales that have banned gaming and preempt local restrictions, setting up a fight between cities, anti-gaming forces and state lawmakers in Florida, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber warned Wednesday.

Gelber raised his concerns during the city’s commission meeting, saying that private conversations in Tallahassee could lead to legislation that would allow for a casino at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel. Jeffrey Soffer — who owns the Fontainebleau and the Big Easy Casino in Broward County — has pushed for years to allow for gambling at his Beach resort.

Gelber also alluded to efforts by Genting Group, which owns the former Miami Herald bayfront property near downtown Miami, to build a casino resort. Also Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that the Trump Organization is lobbying for legislation in Tallahassee that would allow for a casino at the Trump National Doral Miami.

“This is a very frightening moment,” Gelber said, later telling the Miami Herald that “the measure … is going to first help give it to the Fontainebleau, and then one of those other two locations.”

Speculation grew about a Trump Casino in particular, but just how likely is it that they could expand the casino business in Florida at this time?  A deep dive by an online casino trade source indicates its not very like, and some obstacles exist for other casino companies as well:

The troubles facing former President Donald Trump’s faltering business empire were well documented by /Bloomberg News/ this week. Jumping back into the casino industry, however, probably isn’t the most viable solution that would be offered up by Trump’s creditors. They are owed some $590 million in loans that come due over the next few years.

Based on Trump’s gaming industry track record, bankruptcy lawyers could be the only group excited by news reports that he may be eyeing a casino for his struggling Trump National Doral golf club near Miami. However, Florida’s Seminole Indian Tribe, Disney Corp., and the state constitution block the path for another Trump gaming enterprise.

Together, the Seminoles and Disney have spent millions of dollars defeating Florida gaming expansion efforts. In 2018, they threw their considerable weight behind the passage of Amendment 3, which changed the state constitution. Casino-style gambling can’t be expanded away from tribal lands unless it is approved in a statewide ballot measure that earns at least 60% support.

Republican legislators in Florida are reportedly considering a bill that would allow the gaming-license transfer process. But the idea has drawn opposition from the anti-gaming lobby. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the Associated Press that the governor and legislative Republicans would have to choose between “loyalty to Trump or loyalty to their constituents.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may be a Trump ally, but who is going to bet against the Seminoles, Disney, and the constitution? Even if Trump were to acquire a gaming license, good luck financing a casino deal.

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


Florida Sports Gambling Legislation Leveraged to Push Seminole Gambling Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing attempts to solidify a new Seminole Compact to govern over tribal gambling and exclusivity rights on various forms of gambling in Florida altogether.  The compact’s exclusivity clause expired a few years ago and a series of events have prevented a new deal.  There have been various stalls and subsequent attempts to bring everyone back to the negotiation table though, including a push last summer over sports gambling exclusivity in a new Compact.  Given the coronavirus pandemic, more people were at home, spending more time online, so mobile sports gambling became a carrot to negotiations.  Those efforts also stalled and questions over the legality of its expansion in light of the voter approved Amendment requiring voter approval for gambling expansion were left unanswered.  Now, a similar effort is being made to leverage exclusivity in sports betting to bring everyone back to the gambling table.  An online source explains:

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, filed three bills Monday that would allow the state’s lottery department to issue licenses and oversee legal sports wagering in Florida with revenue dedicated to education beginning Oct. 1, 2021.

Brandes’ Senate Bill 392 authorizes the state’s Department of the Lottery to operate a sports wagering program and lays out the parameters of how it would operate. SB 394 imposes a 15-percent tax on “sums received from a sports pool” and SB 396 establishes $100,000 application and renewal fees for state-issued sports wagering licenses.

Brandes’ 2021 proposals are similar to the trio of bills he introduced in the waning days of the 2020 legislative session as lawmakers prepared to leave Tallahassee in March without a new gaming pact with the Seminoles. The bills are essentially a prod to spur urgency in talks between Florida and the Tribe and to stop leaving money on the table – some estimates top $700 million annually – when the state’s current year and next year budgets face unanticipated pandemic-induced shortfalls.

The Seminole gaming compact remains in negotiation with the Tribe objecting to the state’s taking control of sports wagering, especially since such an expansion could be outlawed under the November 2018 passage of Amendment 3, which requires any “expansion of gambling” be approved by at least 60 percent of voters in a ballot measure.

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


Arizona Casino Operator Closes Three Properties after Covid-19 Death of Employee – Lack of mandated PPE requirements for gamblers cited

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many ongoing impacts seen by Covid-19.  Las Vegas, a city built around casinos and gambling, set records for coronavirus cases when they partially opened, prompting the Governor to claim the city wasn’t ready to move to additional phases and safety had to be paramount.  They had very strict rules for personal protective equipment (PPE) and sterilization techniques for dice, chips and money handling in general.  Even still, they saw record case increases.  Now imagine if such stringent rules weren’t in place.  Unfortunately for one family, they didn’t have to imagine, as they lived through it when Arizona casinos opened with few safety measures in place, and and employee died from Covid-19 complications. A local Arizona source reports:

As of 2 a.m. Thursday, Gila River Hotels & Casinos shuttered all three of its properties for two weeks amid a recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Arizona. Leaders at Gila River Hotels & Casinos declined The Arizona Republic’s repeated requests to confirm the number of employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, saying that they will not disclose the information to “protect the privacy” of their workers. The announcement comes a week after a security guard at Lone Butte Casino died of complications related to COVID-19, according to his family.

Washington, who lived in Chandler, had returned to work in mid-May. His daughter, Lina Washington of Sacramento, said he was immediately concerned about safety measures at the casino. “The day after reopening, he was like, ‘Lina, it was awful, it was horrible. The line was around the corner. … Eighty percent of the people weren’t wearing masks,’” Lina Washington said.

Unlike some other casinos in the Phoenix area, Gila River Hotels & Casinos were only requiring employees to wear personal protective equipment. Customers were encouraged, but not mandated, to wear masks. Lina Washington said this left her father, who was diabetic and had recently beaten prostate cancer, exposed.

During the two week closure, casino officials will “reassess its current safety standards” after evaluating its safety plan with the Gila River Indian Community Council and receiving “feedback from its community and team members.”

This situation highlights the severity of the pandemic.  Too many people are dismissive of sound medical recommendations to do something as simple as wear a mask because they don’t view this as anything but a type of flu or a disease that won’t impact them.  A mask isn’t 100% effective of course, but it significantly reduces the spread of the virus and it’s one of the simplest recommendations that the casinos and other businesses can require for the proper protection of their employees and the community at large.  The worker’s daughter spoke to a local television program and helped cast the appropriate light on this pandemic’s severity:

In her grief and rage, Washington is calling out Gov. Doug Ducey and holding leadership accountable for what she views as a failure to protect Arizona’s most vulnerable residents from the pandemic. People like her 68-year-old father, who was diabetic and a cancer survivor. “This is very real,” she said. “This is not something where the elderly and vulnerable are disposable. This is not natural selection. These are people, these are parents, these are grandparents.”

Coronavirus cases are surging in Arizona; the rate of positive cases is one of the highest in the world right now. Gov. Ducey is coming under fire for not taking more aggressive steps to stem the infection’s spread, such as requiring the use of masks. “I don’t want anyone to have to experience (this) because of the ignorance and negligence and hubris of people who don’t believe this is real.” 

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