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.
My former Law Firm, Greenspoon Marder (GM), urged me to discontinue my blog in 2015, so I did. GM is a National Law Firm, and I was their Government Affairs Director and Chaired their Gaming Law Practice Group. When I was elected to the Broward County Commission in November of 2016, representing about 250,000 people in 7 cities, I reluctantly had to resign from GM because of conflicts with them appearing frequently in front of the Broward County Commission. I still have great respect and affection for GM, and still think that they’re a great firm.
Since November of 2016, I’ve had my own law firm, named, not surprisingly, Geller Law Firm. I continue to do a substantial practice in Gaming Law, and continue to speak and be interviewed on Gaming Law issues. For example, last weekend I spoke at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Spring Meeting. The topic was Indian Gaming Law in general, and the Seminole Indian Gaming Compact in particular. I will be speaking at the next National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) conference in July in Cleveland. I’ve continued to advise national Banking and Investment houses on gaming issues, and have continued to offer advice and legal opinions to clients and the media.
My new website should be completed within the next few weeks, and I’ll give the website address when it’s finalized. In the meantime, anyone that needs to reach me can reach me at Steve@gellerlawfirm.com .
I will be starting to blog again, and should have a gaming-specific article posted by next week.
Feel free to contact me.
Is the Seminole Tribe considering unionizing their Florida casinos?; Additional debates on economic impact of Florida gaming; Renewed questions about the renewal of the Seminole gaming Compact; Legislation filed to permit on-line Florida Lottery ticket sales; Instant Racing proving sucessful in Idaho
- A current rumor circulating in Florida is that The Seminole Tribe of Florida may consider unionizing their Florida Hard Rock casinos and hotels. According to Sunshine State News, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has partnered with the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin to open a Hard Rock casino in Wisconsin, and has entered into “card check” agreements with two unions there. Of course, even under Republican Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin has a Legislature that is considered more favorable to Organized Labor than is the Florida Legislature.
- Once again, the economic impact of gaming in Florida is being debated. Nick Sortal writes in the South Florida Sun Sentinel about conflicting opinions between the America Gaming Association (AGA) and No Casino’s, Inc. The AGA commissioned a study by Oxford Economics, (part of Oxford University in England) showing that the Dade and Broward pari-mutuels with racinos employed 3,453 people and generated $1.2 billion in economic impact. As the AGA represents the private casino industry, it is not surprising that the report does not include the Seminole or Miccosukee casinos, pari-mutuels in other parts of Florida, the Florida Lottery, etc. John Sowinski, the President of No Casinos, stated that that “The slot revenues run the State of Florida for about 18 hours. It is a blip on the screen, a rounding error.” He stated that the spending was money that Floridians would otherwise have spent on other discretionary areas.
- Capitol News Service of Florida has also recently stated that the future renewal of the Seminole Gaming Compact is uncertain. These rumors continue. Please see my last post for additional details.
- WEAR, Pensacola, has reported on the possibility of online sales of Lottery Tickets in Florida. Senator Gwen Margolis of Miami has prefiled a bill which would authorize such sales. Opposition to the bill was reported from both conservative opponents of gambling and from convenience stores, which are concerned that online sales could draw sales away from convenience stores. Although commissions on sales of lottery tickets are relatively low, there is a belief among at least some convenience stores that the sale of lottery tickets brings in patrons who also buy higher margin objects.
- Instant Racing in Idaho has started off very well, raising both praise and concern. According to an Associated Press article by Kimberlee Krueski, 200 Historic Racing machines at Les Boies Park, (a pari-mutuel located near Boise, Idaho), are collecting millions of dollars a month. In October of 2014, for example, the amount wagered was over $7.2 million dollars. The Idaho Racing Commission has determined that Historic Racing, a/k/a Instant Racing, where the last few seconds of races are shown on individual screens and individual betting is permitted, does not violate the Idaho Constitutional ban on slot machines. Although this type of gambling has been supported by the pari-mutuel industry, and passed by the Idaho Legislature, some opposition has recently surfaced. The Coeur d’Alene tribe, which originally did not oppose Instant Racing, and at least some Conservative Legislators, now oppose Instant Racing after seeing how successful it has become. Editors note – Historic Racing machines have been discussed in Florida as a possibility for the pari-mutuels outside of Miami Dade and Broward Counties.
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.