Category Archives: Tribal Gambling

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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Florida goes after Pari-Mutuels as it Seeks to Enforce Designated-Player Card Games Ruling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing and developing situation regarding designated player banked card games. This form of card game was offered for four years before its legality was challenged. Last year, however, the court determined the games to be illegal and a violation of the Seminole Compact which outlined exclusive card games at Seminole casinos. As recently reported by Casino Watch Focus that ruling is being challenged in appeals court and is set to be heard next month. In the mean time, swift enforcement has begun to stop these illegal card games. An online source explains:

Florida gambling chiefs have launched legal action against two pari-mutuel venues, the Sarasota Kennel Club and Pensacola Greyhound Racing, for their alleged failure to remove so-called “designated player games” from their premises.

Meanwhile, many of Florida’s other cardrooms and racetracks are bracing themselves for similar action, as the state moves to crack down on the controversial games.

This action is especially important given litigation was dropped by the Seminole’s in exchange for the state agreeing truly enforce the courts ruling. The online source continues:

The case had initially been brought by the State against the Seminoles for their refusal to stop offering banked games once their initial five-year compact expired in 2015. But the tribe countersued over the exclusivity violation, forcing the state into a humiliating retreat. In July, both parties agreed to an end to litigation and the state vowed it would take “aggressive enforcement action” against pari-mutuels that violated the ban on the games it had previously permitted.

Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, told Sunshine State News that the state’s actions this week show it intends to live up to its word. “They’re going to come in. They’re going to check tape. They’re going to watch games being played live. And if they see anything out of compliance being done, they’re going to issue administrative complaints and fines,” he said. “So everybody is double- and triple-checking to make sure they’re in compliance.” 

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Florida Casino Expansion denied in Gambling Permit Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the efforts to expand gambling in Florida. The state has an agreement with the Seminole’s to allow tribal casinos in state, but other gambling efforts are more small scale and limited to horse and dog racing as well as various pari-mutual gambling locations. Efforts also took place to bring full-scale, Vegas style casino’s to the area and those too were shut down. That hasn’t stopped outside companies from trying to find new ways into the Florida market. The most recent example involves the sale of a license with the intent to move a facility and expand gambling greatly. The Saint Peters Blog has explained those efforts and how they have been shut down:

State gambling regulators this week shot down a request by a South Florida gambling permit holder who wanted sell the permit and allow the next operator to build on a new location in Broward County.

The *Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Monday said both sales of permits and any relocation of gambling—both time-consuming processes—have to be OK’d by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which regulates gambling in the state. The decision further cements the state’s control over where and how gambling is offered, particularly after a permit is granted.

The department’s “final order” also is a win for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which asked to intervene in the case. The Seminoles, who operate the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, had said allowing gambling licenses to be moved within a county “would provide out-of-state companies (with) an incentive to (buy) a license, possibly resulting in increased business competition for the Tribe.”

The company has a deal with an unnamed buy who was hoping to build a casino in a new location. The buyer knows it needs to relocate and build a new casino to be profitable, so this likely means the deal is off and there wont be significant new casino gambling expansion facing Florida families. 

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Florida Court of Appeals to Hear Designated-Player Card Games Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent rise and fall of designated player banked card games in Florida. This style of card game seeks to avert Florida state gambling laws and for a while, the state wasn’t shutting them down. Once it was brought up that they were illegal forms of gambling and one that also violated the Seminole Compact’s exclusivity agreement, the state had to act. The issue went to court were they ruled illegal. As it might come as no surprise, the decision has now been appealed. An online source reports:

The legal battle related to greatly profitable *designated-player card games* at pari-mutuel facilities across the state of Florida is to be continued soon. It came to the knowledge of Casino Guardian that the matter is scheduled to be heard in September by a local *appeals court*.

The appeal was filed by *Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation*, which is responsible for regulation and monitoring of local gambling venues. The Department is now challenging a ruling issued in 2016 by E. Gary Early, an Administrative Law Judge. In his decision from *August 2016*, Judge Early said that the way the so-called designated-player card games are being operated in a *way that violates the ban* on “banked” card games that had been imposed by the state.

According to notice which was published on an online court list with pending cases for trial, the *1st District Court of Appeal* is set to host the appeal’s hearing on *September 12th*.

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Florida and the Seminole Tribe finally reach a new Gambling agreement

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing struggle between Florida and the Seminole Tribe to come to an agreement over exclusivity rights in the local gambling landscape. The part of the Seminole Compact that dealt with table games and other exclusivity rights has been in need of a new agreement for some time now, and each new gambling bill that has been suggested seemingly strained the nature of such an agreement. Additionally, earlier iterations of a new compact have included far more gambling expansion proposals than legislators would allow. Now, it appears interested parties have come to an agreement and it reestablishes exclusivity and doesn’t allow an uptick in gambling expansion. The Miami Herald reports:

Blackjack will continue uninterrupted at casinos run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, parimutuels will be ordered to stop offering controversial competing card games, and the State of Florida will have access to more than $340 million in new money, under a settlement agreement reached late Wednesday between the tribe and state regulators.

Under the agreement, the Seminole Tribe has agreed to continue monthly revenue sharing payments to the state in return for the state’s agreeing to enforce a judge’s ruling that allows it to continue to operate blackjack and other banked card games at its casinos for another 13 years.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation must also enforce a rule that prevents competing casinos and card rooms from operating blackjack and slot machines that mimic the banked card games the tribe is entitled to operate exclusively in Florida.

“The settlement is one of the rare incidents where everybody benefits,” said Barry Richard, attorney for the Seminole Tribe. “Nobody gave up anything. The state has an immediate infusion of money, and the tribe gets to continue its games.” 

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Tribal Casino being pushed in Missouri has Immediate Opposition

Casino Watch Focus has reported that in Missouri, there is a cap of 13 casinos and they must be on the Missouri or Mississippi rivers. The laws have augmented over the years, but initially Missouri only allowed 2 hour river boat gambling tours. Now the casinos are full fledged casinos, not traditional paddle boats, although the still technically float on the rivers as water is pumped in under the buildings. There have been some efforts to expand gambling by attempting to amend the Missouri Constitution to allow casinos in the Branson area, but all efforts have been quickly squelched. Most recently, a trade off was made when voters removed the original $500 loss limit in exchange for a cap on the number of casinos at 13. Now, it appears new efforts have emerged in an effort to get a new form of gambling authorized in Missouri, tribal gambling. An editorial originally published in the Kansas City Star demonstrates how the Osage Nation has laid the ground work to get Gubernatorial approval for tribal gambling in Missouri:

Last December, the Osage Nation of Oklahoma wrote two checks to the Committee for a New Missouri, the dark money nonprofit set up to help pay for Gov. Eric Greitens’ January inauguration. The donations — first revealed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — totaled $52,700.

The tribe wanted a good relationship with the incoming governor, its leader said. Oh, and Osage Nation operates seven gaming casinos in Oklahoma and just might be interested in building another facility in Missouri.That facility would need the approval of Missouri’s governor. Under existing federal law, he must conclude a casino would be “in the best interest of the Indian tribe and its members” for the application to move forward.

The story clearly demonstrates why it’s so important to know where political money is coming from.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said he would support the casino if it was both good for the Osage tribe and Missourian. Rep. Jason Steelville also expressed a desire to support a new casino. However, not everyone shares those sentiments and opposition to a new casino in Missouri has already emerged. The Missouri Times explains: 

Don Hinkle, the public policy advisor for the influential Missouri Baptist Convention, editor of The Pathway, and one of the state’s most vocal evangelicals, says that the Missouri Baptist Convention would strongly oppose a casino because of the detrimental effects they believe gambling has on a society.

“Gambling is a form of economic predation. They’re predators. It benefits international corporations while opposing the lower class, the very people we need to be helping here in Missouri. Allowing casinos to prey on them is not good economics, it’s not good business, and it’s not good for Missouri. Every Missourian ought to stand up and call this out for what it is. It’s wrong, and we don’t need it in Missouri. Missouri has a great economy with great people who are willing to work.”

Hinkle says that Greitens’ response in which he said he would support it if it were good for Missouri should be taken with a grain of salt. “That’s a mighty big caveat, and I’d tend to give the governor some slack here. It doesn’t sound to me like he’s committed to it,” he said. 

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New Slot Machines Could Significantly Expand Gambling in Florida and Damage the Seminole Gambling Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling negotiations between Florida state and the Seminole Tribe regarding the new gambling compact. The compact impacts the expansion of gambling and the flow of money into state coffers by providing exclusive rights to certain gambling games to the Seminole Tribe at there casino’s in exchange for guaranteed payments to the state. This effectively limits the type of gambling around the state and helps limit it to certain geographic areas. A recent case was already adjudicated in favor of the Seminole Tribe that ruled the Florida Government has violated the exclusivity of the compact by allowing table games at other venues. That issues appeared resolved when an Judge declined the appeal by the state. However, a new issue involving a new type of slot machine has emerged that once again speaks to the issue of expanded gambling possibly violating the compact. The Saint Peters Blog explains:

If it looks like a slot machine, and plays like a slot machine, it’s a slot machine, the *Seminole Tribe of Florida is telling state leaders. An order by a Tallahassee judge, first reported by FloridaPolitics.com, declared that certain slot machine-style entertainment devices aren’t slot machines under state law.

The Tribe disagreed. It now says those games violate a deal between the Tribe and the state, known as the Seminole Compact. That could have “massive consequences costing the Tribe and the State to lose multi-billions of dollars,” according to the Tribe’s recent court filing. In a letter sent last Wednesday to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Tribal Chairman Marcellus Osceola said the games were “an expansion of gaming” and a “serious violation” of the compact, which guarantees the Tribe exclusive rights to slots outside of South Florida. 

So what are these machines and why is there a question as to how they are or are not slot machines?   These slot machines are different because they have a “preview” screen. The player presses a preview button and it will show the outcome of the next spin. The Judge rationalized that knowing the outcome means its not a game of change but a game of skill. Those that understand the psychology of what is really going on argue that even though the player knows that move, they still press the button and take the loss or win so they can see if they win big on the play after. They may see that the next pull will lead to a loss, but they gamble that the next pull could be the big win. So its still very much a game of chance as the player is taking a change on the unseen move one ahead. Florida Politics explains the implications: 

Players must “press a ‘preview’ button before a play button can be activated,” the judge’s order explained. The outcome of the next game is always known, thus it’s not a game of skill or chance, he said. You always know you’re a winner or a loser.

*Kathey Bright Fanning*, head of the [Gator Coin] company, said she was “pleased” with the ruling. “It’s all about innovation,” Fanning said.

Whether the innovation in pre-reveal games runs afoul of the Seminole Compact could be a court fight for another day. Some attorneys says pre-reveal is a form of “*electronically-assisted pull-tab game that the Compact says is a “gaming expansion” against its terms.

Nonetheless, “I see a giant wave coming,” said one person in Florida’s gambling industry who asked not to be named. “My phone is blowing up from people (at pari-mutuels) who want these” pre-reveal games.

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