Category Archives: Tribal Gambling

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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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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