South Florida's Racetrack Card Rooms Enjoy Court Victory

The game goes on at Magic City Casino.EXPAND
The game goes on at Magic City Casino.
Photo by Nick Sortal

Remember when the courts prohibited funky games such as Ultimate Texas Hold ‘em and three-card poker at racetrack casinos in 2015? Well, it looks like they’re going to be here for a while longer.

This past August 27, administrative law judge E. Gary Early ruled the state of Florida was wrong to simply eliminate a rule it had approved in 2012.

The state was contacted about a problem with the games last December, just as a compact was being worked out between Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole, who allow these games in their casinos' blackjack pits. (That agreement didn’t pass the legislature), 

Early ruled the state can’t just zap a law it doesn’t like, even though racetrack lawyers pointed out they had brought in special tables, reconfigured floor space, and hired staff. “The evidence is conclusive that, by its repeal of [the rule, the state] simply changed its mind....Respondent cannot, with little more than a wave and well-wishes, expect regulated businesses to expose themselves to liability through their actions,” Early wrote.

Now it looks like there will be another suit of some kind.“We are still reviewing the decision and will take the appropriate steps moving forward in the process,” Department of Business and Professional Regulation Communications director Stephen Lawson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, remember that the Seminole tribe has filed suit against the state, arguing that legislators have not negotiated in good faith to extend a five-year $1 billion agreement for exclusive rights to table games. Their agreement with the state expired July 31, 2015. Those games have continued despite the lawsuit, and the Seminoles are paying the state in the interim.

The biggest legal game-changer could bring slots to at least six Florida counties – and end the monopoly the Seminoles have outside of South Florida. We’re due for a ruling on that case sometime soon.

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