^
Keep New Times Free
4
| Economy |

At Racetrack Casinos, Card Game Ruled Illegal Continues

Although the state and courts have declared a game normally found in blackjack pits illegal, South Florida racetrack casinos just keep on dealing. Now, an appeal will prolong this WTF Florida standoff.

About ten card rooms operate "designated player" games. Poker is legal at racinos, but as many wanted the simpler thrill of blackjack, they found a workaround. They introduced three-card poker, Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em, and other games. One player sits in a corner seat at the table, and everyone plays the games against him. (In blackjack, everyone competes against the house.)

“If a mannequin was sitting in the designated player’s seat, or you just put a Coke can there, the games would play no differently than if a living, breathing human being was sitting there," Department of Business and Professional Regulation lawyer William Hall said during a June 1 hearing. To make things worse, the designated player must be approved by the card room.

The state’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering blundered in 2012 by approving the games, and the card rooms went to the expense of bringing in special tables, reconfiguring their floor space, and hiring staff. 

The Seminoles didn't like this. They argued the state violated its compact with the tribe. They believe the state should shut down designated player games. 

The state agreed and filed to shut down the games this past December, just as the Seminole Tribe and Florida Gov. Rick Scott were announcing an agreement that could have brought $3 billion in revenues to the state over a seven-year period. That agreement died in the Florida Legislature without a vote.

Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk agreed with the state on August 1. She specifically addressed a poker room in Jacksonville. “As currently operated, the designated player is a player in name only," Van Wyk wrote in a 54-page ruling. "The existing operation of the games does no more than establish a bank against which participants play.”


The racetrack casinos have appealed that finding — and so the game continues to be played. You can’t really blame the racetrack casinos for battling for every dollar they can, especially in South Florida, where they are competing against the Seminole casinos.

This concept of games continuing while legalities are being worked out is a familiar to Florida gamblers, including the tribe. A five-year, $1 billion state compact with the Seminoles, for exclusive rights to table games, expired on July 31, 2015, but blackjack, baccarat and other table games have continued at Seminole casinos. That’s because the tribe has filed suit against the state, arguing that legislators have not negotiated in good faith. (The Seminoles still send the money that rightfully goes to the state in escrow while the lawsuit plays out.)

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of South Florida and help keep the future of New Times free.

It's also important to understand context. The banked card games lawsuit and the Seminoles good-faith complaint are two significant matters that legislators cite as delays for rewriting state gambling laws. They reason that it’s not urgent to hammer out compromises and approve a compact when it
all could come undone. Another pending lawsuit pending could bring slots to at least six Florida counties, ending a monopoly the Seminoles have outside of South Florida. 

What’s the bottom line? Short of lawmen storming card rooms and making mass arrests, the August 1 ruling doesn’t mean much. It took a visit to the Florida Supreme Court for Hialeah Park, which was not part of the original referendum, to open. It took another trip to debate the slot expansion case. So why the hell expect one side to give in on this particular gambling controversy?

No way.  That’s just how we roll here in Florida.


Get daily gambling news at southfloridagambling.com. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickSortal.

Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in South Florida.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in South Florida.