Designated player card games or banked card games which were introduced in 2012 have grown extremely popular in Florida but have been under threat since 2015 after the state gaming regulator wanted to do away these games based on an opinion that gaming operators were conducting these games in a manner that violated state gaming law.
Just about every pari-mutuel who runs a card room in Florida hosts these designated card games which sometimes have buy-ins fixed at $100,000. These lucrative card games generated a combined total of $87 million in gross gaming revenue for Florida’s casinos. John Lockwood, the legal representative for a group of pari-mutuels in Florida filed a lawsuit alleging that the Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering had violated the fixed process in its attempt to introduce a new rule to ban designated card games.
Administrative Law Judge Gary Early has sided with the pari-mutuels by stating that the state’s gaming regular should have introduced new regulations before looking to do away with the law that permitted banked card games. The Judge also stated that the state regulator was going beyond its scope of authority in its attempt to limit gameplay by repealing the rules.
In a statement, Judge Early said “Respondent cannot, with little more than a wave and well-wishes, expect regulated businesses to expose themselves to liability through their actions under a statute that is open to more than one interpretation, when the agency itself has found it problematic to decipher the statute under which it exercises its regulatory authority.”
The Judge’s ruling comes at a time when the Seminole Tribe of Florida is challenging card games in the state and could cause a number of major implications in the gambling industry. Judge Early’s ruling also appears to be opposed to Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk ruling in the Jacksonville Kennel Club Inc lawsuit. State regulators filed complaints with close to two dozen cardroom operators for conducting bank card games in a manner that violated state gaming laws. Judge Van Wyk ruled on Aug 1 that the Jacksonville Kennel Club had indeed violated state gaming law.
However Judge Early made a footnote in his ruling stating that Judge Van Wyk’s decision in the case was based on ‘specific proof’ on how the games were played and was not an overall conclusion that all designated player games in pari-mutuels were violating state gaming laws.
The Seminoles had earlier held an exclusive 5-year contract to operate house-banked card games in the state. The contract expired in 2015 and hasn’t been renewed till now which prompted the tribe to file a lawsuit. Judge Early stated that while there was evidence to suggest that state gaming regulators were trying to ban banked card games in relation to the Seminole contract, the most important fact to the consider was that regulators had adopted divergent views of the law which impacted petitioners interests.