Florida Pari-Mutuel Petitions Judge Over Seminole Gambling Compact

seminole-gambling-compactThe Florida Seminole Indian Tribe has been fighting with the state of Florida ever since they agreed to a new gambling compact with the state in 2010. As reported on Online.Gambling.org, a suit filed by the Seminoles against the state for breach of contract, was recently settled by Federal Judge Robert Hinkle on behalf of the Seminole Tribe. The award by Judge Hinkle gave the Tribe exclusivity of house-banked casino games for the duration of the original 20 year gambling compact which was signed in 2010.

The suit by the Seminoles had claimed that the state had reneged on their agreement by allowing pari-mutuel operations to offer ‘designated player’ card games, which was just a cover name for house-banked cover games, of which the Seminoles had exclusivity rights.

Since that ruling was handed down in December 2016, Gretna Racing, a small pari-mutuel in Northwest Florida, filed a petition on December 15, 2016 with the court asking the judge to reconsider his opinion based upon the premise that the ruling “puts the small facility and its operators at risk.” On January 4, 2017, Judge Hinkle rejected the appeal pointing out that Gretna Racing had no right to intervene in the case.

Co-owners of Gretna Racing, Mark Dunbar and David Romanik, had filed the reconsideration petition because they felt that, based on Hinkle’s December ruling, “Any form of player-banking could be construed to be a crime subjecting Gretna Racing’s officers to potential criminal prosecution and possible imprisonment.”

Judge Hinkle replied, “Even if Gretna could have qualified for permissive intervention on a timely application, which is not an obvious proposition, I would exercise my discretion to deny intervention at this late date as both untimely and otherwise inadvisable. The judgment in this case has no binding effect on Gretna and the order explaining the judgment will have a practical effect only to the extent a future tribunal finds the reasoning persuasive. If, as Gretna seems to believe, it has additional evidence that will persuade a judge to reach a different result, Gretna Racing will be free to present the evidence if ever its own interests become the subject of a judicial or administrative proceeding.”

In a separate issue, Gretna Racing had sought a slot machines permit after Gadsden County voters had approved a referendum this past November, allowing slots in pari-mutuels in Gadsden County. State gaming regulators denied the permit and Gretna filed suit with the Florida Supreme Court. They are awaiting a decision from the court that could have far-reaching implications as voters in seven other Florida counties have also approved slots in local pari-mutuels.

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