Gretna Racing Asks Judge to Change Florida Banked Card Game Ruling

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Florida

In a motion filed this week, attorneys for Creek Entertainment Gretna, a pari-mutuel racing facility and poker room located about 30 miles outside of Tallahassee, asked United States District Judge Robert Hinkle to modify his November ruling that pari-mutuels are prohibited by law from offering banked card game.

Although Florida allows pari-mutuels to offer poker, the popular card game is considered a peer-to-peer game where players compete against each other and does not fall into the category of a “banked” card game.

Banked card games are those games where the “bank,” or in many instances the house, opposes all other players such as Blackjack. Included in the banked card game class are other games that are often misclassified as poker games because of their names. Examples include Pai Gow Poker, Three card poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’Em.

But Florida gaming facilities attempted to circumvent the restrictions on banked card games by allowing players to stand in as the bank for these popular poker-themed casino games.

To complicate matters further, the state of Florida gave exclusive rights to offer banked games to the Seminole Tribe as part of a compact that allows the Native American group to operate seven casinos in the Sunshine State.

However, the portion of deal between the Seminoles and the state that allowed the tribe to offer banked games expired in July of last year, but the tribe contended that the state violated the terms of the agreement when it allowed pari-mutuels to also offer banked games, and as a result which was eventually held up by the courts, the tribe continues to spread the games.

A new compact between the tribe and the state was negotiated by Florida Governor Rick Scott a year ago, but earlier this year, state lawmakers failed to approve the deal which would have contributed $3 billion in revenue to state coffers.

Rejecting the lucrative deal may prove to have been a massive misstep for the state of Florida.

The ruling by Hinkle that the offering of banked games by pari-mutuels is against the law came as a result of a case where the state and the Seminoles were seeking clarification on whether or not the state violated the compact. Gretna contends that had it known that the legality of such games was going to be decided, it would have submitted its testimony before the judge rendered his ruling.

Hinkle ruled that the state did violate the compact and not only could the Seminoles continue to offer banked games, but they are no longer required to make payments to the state of Florida for those games—payments which amount to about $250 million per year.

But as a sign of good faith on the part of the Seminoles, they have continued to make the payments since the provision of the compact expired last year.

Governor Scott is once again meeting with representatives of the tribe to try to put together another deal that he can present to the state legislators when they reconvene in 2017. Perhaps with the recent court rulings they will be a bit more willing to approve a new deal.

December 17, 2016
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