The state of Florida has lost a major legal showdown with the Seminole Tribe over whether or not the tribe could continue playing Blackjack and Baccarat at their facilities, and whether or not they have to share revenue from those games with the state.

To use a gambling parlance – the state busted.

This case involves the 2010 compact between the tribe and the state. As part of that agreement, the Seminoles were granted exclusive rights to offer banked card games for a five-year period, in exchange for $1 billion to the state. The deal contained penalties if the state violated the tribe’s exclusivity, giving the public assurance that the compact would actually halt further expansion of gambling.

In 2011, Florida regulators allowed pari-mutuels to offer so-called “designated-player’’ card games, a new game that – unlike traditional poker – features players trying to get a better hand than a designated player, who then pays out winners and collects from losers.

While these games are certainly lucrative for the pari-mutuel owners, the state realizes little revenue from their play versus what is at risk by violating the compact. The FY 2014-2015 annual report from the Department of Pari-Mutuel Wagering shows that combined revenue to the state from all licensed card rooms was $14.3 million. In contrast, the minimum payment from the tribe to the state that year was $234 million.

Why regulators would take this risk is baffling. Here is what is more baffling – these games appear to violate state law.

Florida Statute 849.086(12)(a) specifically prohibits “any banking game or any game not specifically authorized by this section.”

The state argued that because these “dealers” were not employees of the facility, the games should not considered banked. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle disagreed, saying, “a ‘banked game’ is a ‘banked game,’ whether banked by the house, a player, or someone else.”

Not only does his ruling allow the tribe to continue offering Blackjack and Baccarat at tribal gambling facilities for the next 14 years, it also enacts the penalty clause in the compact for violating the tribe’s exclusivity, putting hundreds of millions of dollars a year from play of these games flowing into the state budget into jeopardy.

This whole episode continues what we have called “gambling creep” – the way that gambling expands beyond what was originally intended. The two-step process for ending this is for legislators and regulators to resist any and all attempts to expand gambling, and to re-establish Florida voters as the ultimate authority when it comes to deciding on the expansion of casino-style gambling.

This is why No Casinos supports the Voters in Charge initiative, which would once and for all clarify that provision. The initiative is being reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court in anticipation of appearing on the 2018 ballot.

Without a clear, bright line in our state’s constitution, gambling expansion will continue to be subject to the vagaries of inept and over-reaching regulators, high-priced lawyers and exasperated judges.

Paul Seago is executive director of No Casinos.




News February 17, 2017
Aric Nesbitt to be new Michigan lottery commission...
Latest News February 14, 2017
New Jersey law is the first to authorize and regul...
Latest News February 8, 2017
Hearing set for NH casino bill on Wednesday ...
January 31, 2017
New West Virginia Lottery Director Alan Larri...



LATEST NEWS February 9, 10
Arjan van ’t Veer is the new Secretary General o...
February 2, 2017
Kentucky Lottery proceeds are helping create a be...
February 1, 2017
Svenska Spel - Year-end report January-December 20...

Public Gaming Magazines

Public Gaming September/October 2016

.Pdf version of the magazine - click here

2016 Public Gaming July/August
2016 Public Gaming May/June
2016 Public Gaming March/April
2016 Public Gaming January/February

Public Gaming /Paul Jason -   / Susan Jason -  /Office Phone - + 425-449-3000