Two days ago I predicted that there would not be a Special Session on Gaming in Florida. I said that the issues were too complex, that the House and Senate were too far apart, and that the Seminole Tribe would have to pay less or nothing in taxes to the State, depending on how much exclusivity they still had.
Yesterday evening, the Legislature declared that they had reached an impasse, and would not be holding a Special Session on gaming. According to the Tampa Bay Times, “The decision came after weeks of backroom diplomacy between Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, the incoming Senate president and Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, the incoming House speaker. ” An additional reason that was stated for not calling a Special Session was fears that other things might get added, and that the Session would get pout of control.
I had warned in my last post that the House wanted to oppose expansion of gambling, while the Senate was willing to expand it. I also commented on the discussions about “designated player” or “player banked” card games.
According to the Tampa Bay Times “Among the proposals under consideration between the House and Senate was a plan to allow the tribe to reduce its payments to the state by about $160 million a year. To make up the lost revenue, lawmakers proposed allowing the lucrative “designated player” card games, such as Three-Card poker and Ultimate Texas Hold ’em, at parimutuels and applying a tax to those proceeds.
Designated player card games have become the latest opportunity to breathe new life into ailing dog tracks around the state. Melbourne Greyhound Park and the Jacksonville Kennel Club, for example, have been able to hire dozens of new employees because of the revenue. But a federal court has declared the games also violate the compact because they play like banked card games, and the tribe has threatened to withhold payments to the state if regulators don’t halt those games by May 2019.
However, in order for many in the House to claim success in the chamber that opposes gambling, they needed to be able to say there has been significant gaming reduction in the state’s gaming footprint. Oliva had proposed requiring the parimutuels that add slot machines to obtain a gaming license from an existing brick and mortar operation, including cardrooms.
[Senate President Joe] Negron said that proposal, however, was objectionable to many in the Senate, where legislators representing rural areas expressed concern about losing jobs.”
The link to the Tampa Bay Times Article can be found here: http://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2018/04/26/expand-gambling-in-florida-lawmakers-fold-will-let-voters-decide/
Now we’ll have to see what happens with Amendment Three, the proposed Amendment to the Florida Constitution on voter approval of gambling changes.
Greenspoon Marder and Steve Geller play major roles at Florida Gaming Conference; Questions arise as to whether portions of the Seminole Gaming Compact will be renewed; NBA commissioner Adam Silver writes in favor of legalizing Sports Wagering; Florida Revenue Estimating Conference meets, discusses impact of Dania Casino and Seminole Compact; “Adult Arcade” raided in North port, Florida, attorney claims arcade completely legal.
- Greenspoon Marder was the Presenting Sponsor at the Florida Gaming Conference, hosted by Spectrum Gaming, held November 10 and 11 at the Hyatt Hotel in Downtown Miami. I Spoke on the panel “Gaming Outside of South Florida – The Right Move?”, Moderated the panel “Legislative Update – What’s Next for Florida”, and introduced both Keynote Speakers, Senator Maria Sachs, and City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.
- Numerous stories were written about the Florida gaming congress, including by Nick Sortal from the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, who wrote about the fears that the South Florida Casino market is saturated, and Nick Wingfield, who wrote that Churchill Downs is buying mobile games company Big Fish Games.
- Probably the biggest issue facing Florida this year is whether or not that portion of the Seminole Compact restricting anyone other than the Seminoles from having banked card games will expire or be renewed. The Compact has a 20 year term, but that portion dealing with banked card games and increased revenue sharing was only for 5 years, and expires in 2015. The Tampa Tribune wrote an article entitled “New Senate head puts tribal gaming into question”, which discusses the possibilities that the Compact may not be renewed. Although Governor Rick Scott, a proponent of the Compact, was re-elected, the article discusses that the Legislature may be more assertive on these issues this year, and may not be supportive of extending the Compact. The new Senate President, Andy Gardiner, is from Orlando, where Disney World, which opposes gambling, is influential. Gardiner opposes gambling, and has said that with Florida’s recovering economy, he is prepared to do without the Seminole revenue sharing. Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, who is expected to play a major role in any gambling bill, says that when the Senate discusses the Compact, he expects that all other gambling issues will be discussed as part of compact negotiations.
- NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has written an op-ed in the New York Times stating that wagering on NBA games should be legalized. This is the first time that I have seen that the head of any Major League Professional Sports League in the United States has come out in favor of legal sports wagering, which would violate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Silver said that Congress should pass legislation to tax, regulate, and reform wagering on Sports betting. Silver did not provide specifics on what type of legislation he would like to see.
- The Washington Post wrote an excellent story talking about Silver’s call for legal sports gambling, and wrote about the history of sports and gambling, including a discussion of where sports gambling stops and fantasy sports wagering begins.
- The Tampa Bay Times covered the meeting of the State of Florida Revenue Estimating Conference, which estimated that the closing of Dania Casino and Jai Alai should cost the state about $3 million dollars in lost tax revenue. The Revenue Estimating conference described that loss as relatively insignificant compared to the potential loss if Florida does not renew the Seminole gaming Compact.
- The Sarasota Herald Tribune wrote an article which demonstrates the difficulty in enforcing the laws against internet cafes and “adult arcades” in Florida. Law enforcement agents raided “The Spin Depot”, a North Port, Florida arcade. Law enforcement removed machines and records from the arcade. Three people, including a former City Commissioner, were booked into the County Jail. The attorney defending the arcade and the Commissioner stated that he believed that the business “operated lawfully as an arcade amusement center and that no illegal activity took place.
DCA rules in favor of Magic City on Pari-mutuel permit, racing date battle between Gulfstram and Calder ends, New Cruise-to-Nowhere in Jacksonville, Steve Geller speeches
The last month has been very busy from both a gaming law perspective here in Florida, both in terms of new issues to deal with in Florida, as well as my own speaking schedule.
- The First District Court of Appeals in Florida has recently entered a ruling on a long-standing dispute over whether West Flagler Associates, Ltd. In Miami, the parent company of Magic City Casino, is entitled under Florida law to one or more summer jai-alai permits under a law that has existed for many years, but has not been used until the last three or four years. There have been different interpretations of this law, and the DCA entered an order overruling the interpretation of the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. According to Miami Today, The DCA ordered the DPMW to reconsider its ruling; it is not clear whether the DPMW will actually issue the permit. As of the time of writing this blog, it is not clear whether either side will seek to appeal the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court. A similar case involving an application from Hialeah Park is currently pending in front of the Third DCA.
- The battle over thoroughbred racing dates in Miami Dade County has existed since before the County was called Miami Dade County. It now appears to be over. Originally, this was a three way battle between Hialeah, Gulfstream, and Calder racetracks. Hialeah then ceased thoroughbred racing, and Gulfstream and Calder remained to fight. Now, according to the Tampa Times, the parent company of Gulfstream (the Stronach Group), and the parent company of Calder (Churchill Downs) have reached an agreement where Churchill Downs will no longer operate thoroughbred racing at Calder. Instead, the Stronach Group will operate the racing dates located at Calder, while Churchill Downs will continue to operate the casino operations at Calder. Under Florida law, there must be a minimum of 40 days of thoroughbred racing at Calder for them to continue to keep their cardroom and casino permits. This deal also provides for Churchill Downs to sell its 50% stake in HRTV (a racing broadcast network) to Stronach.
- According to Jacksonville.com (the Florida Times Union), a new gambling boat based in Mayport is set to begin operations. Cruises to Nowhere are governed by the Johnson act. Gambling is only permitted outside of the territorial limits of the United States (three miles from Jacksonville). While South Florida was once home to many Cruises to Nowhere, the presence of Indian and pari-mutuel casinos has greatly diminished the presence of Cruises to Nowhere in Florida.
- According to multiple news sources, Sheldon Adelson , casino magnate from the Las Vegas Sands, has contributed $2.5 million dollars to the Drug Free Florida Committee, a group formed to oppose Amendment Two to the Florida Constitution. Amendment Two would permit the legal use of Medical Marijuana. The major committee funding efforts to pass Amendment Two is United for Care. John Morgan is both the major funder of United for Care, and is the senior Partner of Morgan and Morgan, the firm which employs and has been so helpful to Governor Charlie Crist. Adelson has been a substantial contributor to Governor Rick Scott. It is widely speculated that Adelson’s contribution to Drug Free Florida is designed to help Scott in his reelection campaign.
- I have had a busy early summer. On May 20 I was at the Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City as the Moderator of the East Coast Gaming Conference panel entitled “Florida- Ripe for Major Expansion?” The Panelists were Florida State Representative Jim Waldman, the Ranking Democrat on the Florida House Gaming Committee; Isadore (“Izzy”) Havenick, VP of Magic City Casino and Naples /Fort Myers Dog track; Lonny Powell, CEO of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association; and Rod Matamedi, Senior Economic Associate, REMI. I also attended the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States meeting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in La Jolla, where I spoke on several committees. I spoke at the Pari-Mutuel Committee on innovations in pari-mutuel wagering, I gave the Committee on Casinos an update on enforcement in Florida of the ban on “Internet Cafes”, and I spoke to the State-Federal Relations Committee on the current state of federal Internet Gambling laws, and my prognosis for additional Federal Legislation this year. To the best of my recollection, this was the only time any speaker has spoken at three different committees at any NCLGS meeting.
Steve Geller, Esq., is the former Minority Leader of the Florida Senate, and a Shareholder at Greenspoon Marder, P.A. He served on the Gaming committees of the Florida Legislature during the entire 20 years that he served in the House of Representatives and Senate, including serving as Chair of the Committee. He is an “A-V” rated lawyer, and chairs the Gaming Law Practice Group at Greenspoon Marder, where he has represented State and National clients. Greenspoon Marder is a law firm with approximately 160 attorneys in Florida, and the Gaming Law Practice Group can call on the expertise of other attorneys in the firm, in areas such as transactional law, labor and employment law, litigation, appellate law, etc.