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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Double Down

- Blackjack and baccarat games continue at the Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood, Florida. Despite the state Supreme Court ruling that the compact that authorized them is invalid, nobody seems to know how to stop them due to the federal laws that protect the tribe. A motion by the Pompano Park harness track to halt the games was dismissed earlier this month; the judge indicated that the tribe can't be sued for any reason in any court in the country! (exclamation point mine) [Sun-Sentinal]

The table games have drawn huge crowds - reportedly some 40,000 in the first week alone; and that despite a $25 minimum at the blackjack tables! And the Broward County pari-mutuels are reportedly feeling the effects.

The worst situation is probably at Dania Jai-Alai. The entire fronton has been dead since the start of 21 kicked off amid much hoopla on June 22. Last week, a low-stakes poker tournament in Dania Beach that ordinarily draws more than 100 brave souls could bring in only four players. The tournament was canceled. [Broward-Palm Beach New Times]
Last week, the tribe went to court itself in an attempt to have the ruling overturned, putting forth quite the novel argument; recall that federal law permits tribes to conduct any kind of gaming that is permitted elsewhere in the state.
Tribe attorneys Barry Richard and Glenn Burhans argue that banked card games are not illegal and were allowed in the 1990s when the Florida Lottery ran its Million Dollar Flamingo Fortune television show featuring a banked card game in which contestants bet their winnings against the house.

Although the Broward County Circuit Court ruled that the games violated Florida's ban against casino gaming, "the Legislature never took action to prohibit the Lottery from offering them" and "could once again operate such banked card games, clearly demonstrating that Florida's prohibition is not absolute," the tribe argues.

Cooper City Sen. Steve Geller, who is an expert on gambling law, called the tribe's argument "preposterous." He said that no court has allowed Class III games to be compared to games offered by a state Lottery. "They're asking for a rehearing for one reason -- stalling purposes," Geller said. [Miami Herald]
Governor Charlie Crist filed his own motion to have the ruling reconsidered, claiming that the court “dramatically exceeded its own jurisdiction” in its ruling on an action by a state officer. [Bloodhorse]

The legislature can approve a new deal - one which would presumably require larger payments by the tribe than those agreed to in the Governor's agreement. However, unless a special session is called, nothing will happen in Tallahassee until the next session convenes in March. (March!? Talk about part-time legislators!) Other possible action would be far more draconian (and that much more fun to write about):
Three entities have the power to shut down illegal gaming on tribal lands: the U.S. attorney, who can order federal marshals in to stop the games; the federal court, at the request of the state, can order an injunction; and the National Indian Gaming Commission, the independent federal entity that regulates tribal gaming.

The Seminoles have "had conversations'' with the NIGC, said Barry Richard, attorney for the tribe. "The message to the NIGC was we're still hopeful we can work this out, but nothing is going to be able to happen before probably March." [Miami Herald]
Another lawsuit that is still looming in the background, at least as far as I know, is the challenge to the very referendum that authorized slots at the Broward County racetracks in the first place. The last sighting of the motion to declare those games illegal by virtue of what opponents claim were fraudulent signatures on the petitions to bring the measure to the ballot was in May, as originally reported by the Miami Herald.
A nearly forgotten case that pits South Florida's slot machine casinos against anti-gambling forces has resurfaced in a Tallahassee court after dragging through the appeals process for months.

The lawsuit challenges a 2004 statewide vote that gave Broward and Miami-Dade counties the right to open slot-machine casinos with local approval. The 1st District Court of Appeal on May 7 sent the case back to its original Tallahassee court for trial.
If the courts ever ruled against the pari-mutuels in that case, than the shoe would most certainly be on the other foot. And we'd see just how willingly they would shut down their own games that are already well underway.


Michael said...

Don't scoff at part-time legislators, Ky has been a mess since they started having an annual session -- think of how much better things would be if the boys in Albany took even a 4 or 5 month break...

Anonymous said...

Aren't the Seminoles/Hard Rock, the crowds bidding for Aqueduct? If they're successful, wonder how NY lottery laws, stack up against them, starting table games there, as they seemed to have overcome them in Florida.

Alan Mann said...

>>Aren't the Seminoles/Hard Rock, the crowds bidding for Aqueduct?

Yes. But even though the Seminole Tribe owns Hard Rock, the racino would not be considered a tribal casino and would not be permitted to have table games at this time. However, many people feel that it's just a matter of time.