Category Archives: Tribal Gambling

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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Tribal Casino Sues Video Gaming Company over Illegal Loot Box Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of the new gambling mechanic in video games know as loot boxes. This mechanic works by having players purchase boxes full of mystery items in video games. These boxes often cost real world money and the items coming out of the box can be garden variety or fairly useless in game items all the way to very powerful weapons or items that give players a leg up. There have been may instances where these items hold real world value and some examples exist of those items being sold for real money. So the player puts money in the game, pulls the box open lever, gets a random prize of various value and then the player trades those in for real world money, very possibly at a financial gain. Many would argue that the mechanic described is the same as gambling on a slot machine, and that’s the very foundation of for a tribal casino’s lawsuit is video game manufacture.   An online source explains how such a lawsuit could be brought forth: 

The Quinault Indian Nation has filed a lawsuit against Valve, the makers of Steam, claiming that it is running an unlicensed gambling operation and demanding payment for damages.

Okay, this gets a little complicated so settle in. The Quinault Indian Nation owns and operates a licensed casino in the state of Washington, one that is regulated by the Washington Gaming Commission. Valve is also based in Washington.

In its suit against Valve (via Geekwire), the Quinault Nation alleges that “Valve facilitated illegal, unregulated and unlicensed online gambling” when it launched skins for /Counter-Strike: Global Offensive /(/CS:GO/).

Back in 2013, Valve started releasing skins for weapons in /CS:GO/, these upgrades are purely cosmetic. Players would earn crates by playing /CS:GO /and these crates could then be opened with keys which Valve sold in its store. The keys were the only way to open the crates, and it made Valve a tidy bit of cash.

The Quinault Nation says that “the look, feel, sound and experience [of opening a crate] was basically an online slot machine”, providing YouTube footage of players opening crates to back up its claim.

What’s particularly striking in this case, is that seemingly at every level of the transaction, Value, the company being sued by Quinault Indian Nation, had their hand in guiding the process. An online source explains:

It points to the skin gambling sites that were launching and says Valve did nothing to stop them. “Valve had actual knowledge of the identity of the Valve accounts that gambling websites used to effectuate gambling transactions, and chose not to take any action against them,” the court documents state.

It goes on to claim that “Valve allowed gambling websites to use Valve accounts on Valve’s servers and Valve’s computers to effectuate gambling transactions” and that “Valve also provided technical support to gambling websites and real-money cash out websites, despite those websites violating Valve’s Steam Subscriber Agreement, and would return control of gambling websites’ Valve accounts back to the gambling website after being hijacked or hacked by other third parties.”

Despite simply providing an incredibly clear picture for those legislative and consumer protection bodies looking to best understand just how much these loot boxes are no different from gambling, the tribe also outlines exactly how it hurts not only their business with the State, but how doing so illegally without following state regulation further harms those involved. They conclude: 

The Nation has a contract with the State of Washington that means it must remain compliant with the state’s laws if it wants to operate casinos, and that compliance costs money. It has to “engage in responsible gaming, prevent fraud, prevent illegal gaming, and prevent underage gambling”. The Nation also pays 2% of its earnings in Impact Mitigation Funds, which go to paying support services in area around the casino.

If Valve is a gambling operation, like the Nation claims, then it is an unlicensed one and doesn’t incur any of the costs or the risks that come with a gambling license. The Nation is suing for damages, but also the money Valve obtained through gambling transactions.

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Could Florida Legalize Sports Betting in a New Tribal Gambling Agreement?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to renew the compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe, who has rights to exclusively offer various gambling table games. Parts of the compact have expired and both parties have generally been acting in good faith to honor the conditions lines out prior to their expiration (a few legal challenges aside). Even thought the tribe isn’t legally obligated to still provide certain payments to the state while a new compact is being worked through, they have still continued those payments. There are some in the state that want to see sports betting legalized in Florida after the recent Supreme Court ruling and its been suggested that these negotiations could allow for such legalization. An online source explains: 

There is neither a bill nor any proposal, but there is some ray of hope for *Florida* sports betting to sneak into the state’s short legislative session. A priority of the legislature is negotiating a new gaming compact with the *Seminole tribe*. *Senate President Bill Galvano* tells /Legal Sports Report/ he thinks legal sports betting would be part of any agreement.

“It’s definitely part of the discussion because that opportunity exists and they are as interested in participating in sports betting as other entities here in the state of Florida,” Galvano said. “We’re not at a point where we have a product agreed upon and know who gets that product, but we’re having those initial discussions and I think it’s something the tribe will want if we resolve this.”

Galvano was the key legislative negotiator of the 2010 compact with the Seminole. He tasked *Sen. Wilton Simpson* to meet with Seminole representatives to pursue a new compact. “Right now, from the state’s standpoint and speaking on behalf of the Senate, what is paramount is to see where we are ultimately with the tribe going forward,” Galvano said. “If we are able to restabilize that relationship, which provides substantial revenue to our state budget, then the opportunity is there for exploring sports betting in the state of Florida.”

The issue of which side would control this gambling is a more complicated matter as new gambling expansion must now be approved by the Florida voters. That change was made as a result of a statewide voter initiative last Nov when the measure passed by an overwhelming majority. They go on to explain: 

Complicating matters even further is a constitutional amendment Florida voters passed last November taking away the legislature’s authority to authorize casino gambling expansions in the state. *Marc Dunbar*, a government relations and gaming attorney who calls the Seminole a client, told /LSR/ that the only way FL sports betting can be offered without a constitutional amendment is through the tribes or the lottery.

Galvano indicated that the legislature would still attempt to move forward with a sports betting bill if it makes sense within the compact negotiation. He added that he had lawyers review the situation who think a reasonable argument can be made that sports betting doesn’t count as *Class III* casino gambling under Amendment 3.

“If we get within the red zone on a deal, the governor would engage and we would occupy the role of ratifying the compact, expansion on sports betting and any other changes in the parimutuel sector to come from the legislature,” Galvano said. “If it were to happen, it’s going to be pretty close to the end of the session before we can get everything lined up.”

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Seminole Deal Struck with Gov Scott, but Lawmakers still want a Special Gambling Session

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing negotiations between Florida State and the Seminole Tribe to reach a new gambling compact. The session ended with no formal deal in place, but it was expected the Seminoles would continue payments as normal. Gov Rick Scott worked directly with the Tribe after the session ended and has announced a formal agreement to continue payments through next year. An online source reports: 

On Wednesday, Florida Gov. *Rick Scott* announced that the state had extended its casino revenue sharing agreement with the Seminoles through May 2019. The agreement, which was signed in 2017, calls for the tribe to provide the state with around $300m per year in exchange for exclusive rights to certain gaming products.

Scott said the agreement “ensures the Tribe’s current commitment remains intact” but Scott stressed that Wednesday’s deal “does not make any changes to state gaming law or expand current gaming operations in Florida in any way.”

The 2017 agreement was itself a stopgap deal due to the inability of state legislators to approve a new gaming compact with the tribe, which operates the Hard Rock International family of casinos.

However, this action doesn’t appear to have stopped discussions by the legislature to convene a special session to address gambling. The Tampa Bay Times explains: 

The agreement, however, doesn’t look like it’s going to stop talk of a gaming special session sometime in the next month. House and Senate leaders face an expensive election cycle that could benefit from gaming industry contributions, and they are staring down a constitutional amendment that, if voters approve, could take away their control over gaming expansion in Florida.

“The discussions on the special session are continuing,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, the incoming Senate president and the Senate’s key negotiator.

Galvano now says the reason for a special session has more to do with Amendment 3. The constitutional amendment is backed primarily by Disney Worldwide and as the support of the Seminole Tribe. If it gets the 60 percent of the vote needed to become law, legislators will have less influence over all gaming decisions, and the political fundraising that comes from the pari-mutuel industry could shrink.

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Seminole Compact Deal Seems Unlikely Given Florida Legislators are Shifting Full Focus to the Parkland School Shooting

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to fully renew the Seminole Gambling Compact and officially lock in various gambling exclusivity agreements with the Tribe, the most prominent being designated player card games.  Recent legislation was proposed and pushed that was an attempt to allow exclusive deals for the Seminoles at their casinos, while allowing para-mutuel operators to offer designated player games and even end greyhound racing. The Sun-Sentinel reports:

The Florida Legislature is showing its hand in another attempt to bring the Seminole Tribe into a new, lucrative gambling agreement with the state.

Th new deal would potentially end greyhound racing, bring craps and roulette to Seminole casinos and allow designated-player games.

Under a draft agreement the tribe has shown several state lawmakers, it would now be willing to consider designated-player games and fantasy sports leagues such as FanDuel and DraftKing, both of which it had previously said were in violation of its agreement with the state.

Given the court appointed deadlines and Amendment 3, which seems likely to pass and would take the power away from the legislators and into the hands of the people, this was viewed as the key time to strike a deal. An online source explains:

The first deadline is a 2015 federal court order that allows the Seminoles to stop making $250 million in annual revenue-sharing payments to the state by the end of March if lawmakers don’t curtail the growth of ”designated player” games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack, in cardrooms across Florida. The next comes in November when voters are presented with a proposed “No Casinos” constitutional amendment that would require 60 percent approval of a ballot measure to expand gambling, essentially removing legislators from the decision-making process regarding casinos. Therefore, if lawmakers are to make significant changes to gambling regulations and renew the state’s gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, the time to do so is now or, maybe, it will be never.

The Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee approved a 90-page gambling bill earlier this week that gives the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s seven casinos the exclusive right to offer craps and roulette while allowing pari-mutuel facilities statewide to run “designated player” card games.

As it turns out, however, the timeline has become even more doubtful given the tragic Parkland school shooting. The Florida legislature is wisely shifting focus to discuss and address potential solutions to help protect Florida families from similar future tragedies. The budget also needs to be passed, so the window for gambling appears to be rapidly closing.   An online source explains: 

The Florida high school shooting that left 17 people dead last week has another potential casualty—the state’s gambling legislation.

Florida Politics reported that Florida’s gambling bill is on life support after legislators decided to shelve all pending bills on their desks in order to prioritize a legislative response to the February 14 mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.

With only three weeks left in the 2018 legislative session, legislators are scrambling to enact a law that will allocate $100 million funding for the state’s mental health screening, counseling and training, and the “hardening” of Florida schools.

After passing the bill, lawmakers will then need to squeeze in discussions on the state budget within a limited time. With their hands full, Florida House Speaker-designate José Oliva is much less optimistic that they will get something done on gambling in the next three weeks.

“A lot of our bandwidth is going to be taken up,” Oliva said, according to FloridaPolitics.com. “We still have a budget to pass, and obviously we’ve got some sort of bipartisan bill that we have to pass dealing with the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas.”

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Florida Bill Seeks to Legalize Daily Fantasy Sports, but Might Violate the Seminole Gambling Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various attempts at legalization of Daily Fantasy Sports DFS), especially in Florida, a state that has been heavily lobbied due to major DFS companies DraftKings and FanDuel physically residing there. Last January an attempt was made to officially legalize, but it never materialized. New efforts have surfaced and have now passed committee. Florida Politics reports:

A proposal to exempt fantasy sports from state gambling regulation cleared a Senate committee Thursday—but with one notable opponent.

“I don’t think the issues raised are clear,” said Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican and vice-chair of the *Regulated Industries Committee, which handles gambling policy.

Aside from Hukill’s ‘no’ vote, that committee otherwise moved the bill (SB 374) by *Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, on an 8-1 vote. Similar measures (SB 840 223) have been filed for the upcoming Legislative Session.

In the online games, players pick teams of real-life athletes and vie for cash and other prizes based on how those athletes do in actual games.

Asked to clarify her position after the meeting, Hukill said, “Is this a game of skill or not? I don’t think that’s clear, at least for now.”

The issue isn’t as simple as legislation clarifying if it’s a game of skill or change and gambling or simple recreation. There is also the issue of the major gambling compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. They have issued a letter that clearly outlines they view Fantasy Sports as gambling and in violation of the compact and they have threatened to withhold payments to the state if such gambling expansion is pushed through by the legislature. On online source explains:

In a Tuesday letter to the state officials, the Seminole Tribe made it clear that the regulation of sports contests is to violate the tribe’s exclusive rights and the Seminole is to stop making payments to the state. The letter was signed by the Tribe’s general counsel Jim Shore and addressed to Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Mike La Rosa. The letter points out that the bill is to reduce the Tribe’s exclusivity. Furthermore, it states that the tribe is ready to discuss the issue with the state representatives. According to the letter, the bill is to violate Part XII of the 2010 Gaming Compact between the State and Tribe.

At present, the state reaps more than $200 million per year for granting gambling exclusivity to the tribe. Supposing that the state to tax daily fantasy sports contests, the tribe threatened to cease payments to the state. Industry insiders believe that the tribe’s warnings may change the officials’ stance on the matter and the DFS regulation may hit the rail. This seems to be the likely scenario as Florida is eyeing DFS regulation since 2015. Two years later, the bill is pending a stamp by the local government. 

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Update: Florida Voters in Charge Amendment Reaches State Signature Requirement and Receives backing from Disney and Seminole Tribe

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing progression of signatures gathered to place a new amendment on the Florida ballot aimed and controlling gambling better in the state. The proposal would require any gambling legislation passed by the Florida Government to get a vote of the people to pass. Disney has been a backer of the amendment and now it appears the Seminole Tribe has joined in support. The Tribe has a vested interest in keeping gambling to a minimum, given they are one of only a few means to gambling in the state. Still, they have had a difficult time recently with the Florida government adhering to the agreement to keep certain gambling activities restricted in the state, so its unsurprising that they would back additional gambling expansion safeguards. In addition to their support, its being reported that the Voters in Charge amendment has reached the signature threshold to allow the measure to be voted on by the people. An online source explains: 

Voters in Charge is pushing the Voter Control of Gaming Amendment. If the group can obtain the necessary 766,200 signatures to put the issue before voters, Florida residents would decide next fall on the forcing all future gaming expansion to be decided by the voters directly. Outside of the state lottery, parimutuel racinos, and Native American casinos, gambling is supposed to be illegal in Florida. But state lawmakers have gotten crafty in recent years, allowing for parimutuel venues to dance a fine line between racetrack or jai-alai fronton and full-fledged casino.

Well-funded by the Seminoles and Disney, Voters in Charge seems to have plenty of support to get the ballot question before voters. The group said in a release that it has obtained 860,203 signatures, far more than the 766,200 needed. Voters in Charge Chairman John Sowinski said election officials are currently in the process of validating the signatures.

A poll this year found that 84 percent of Floridians “want to reduce or hold the line on gambling.” While this research was commissioned by a lobbying firm working closely with the anti-casino activist group, they now have support from the biggest pro-casino group in the state in an effort to maintain the competitive status quo. 

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