Posts Tagged ‘legal blackjack’

Montana to legalize blackjack?

Friday, February 11th, 2011

A state representative in Montana has proposed a bill that would legalize blackjack, with revenue brought from the game to help pay for social services. Representative Tony Belcourt has introduced House Bill 423. The full title of the bill is six lines long (no, I’m not kidding), so I’ll call it “An Act Legalizing Blackjack” for short.

If passed, the bill would make it legal for Montana casinos to carry live blackjack tables. In order to offer those games, though, they would have to obtain permits. The money raised from permit fees would go toward the budget of the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. The DHHS is currently having its budget slashed by belt-tightening lawmakers in the state.

No high-stakes games would be allowed. The bill sets a $25 betting limit for blackjack games. The money from permit fees would be earmarked for funding specific programs outlined in the bill. Some of those programs include suicide prevention, services for the mentally ill, services for the disabled, child foster care services and more.

Currently live table games are illegal in Montana. The state has casinos, but they only carry video gambling machines, such as slots and video poker. Back in 1991, a bill to legalize blackjack was proposed and was rejected. No efforts to legalize the game have gotten a lot of support since then. With the Department of Health and Human Services seeing cuts to its budget and the state needing revenue, this might be the best time to do it.

Senate Approves Seminole Blackjack Deal

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Are you tired of the constant updates on the Seminole tribe’s quest for legal blackjack? Too bad! Okay, to be honest, I’m a little tired of it, too, so hopefully it will all be resolved soon. The gambling deal has cleared one more hurdle and is closer to being law of the land.

The Florida Senate approved the $1.3 billion blackjack deal with the Seminole tribe that would give them exclusive rights to offer table games and slots in their tribal casinos. The bill passed the Senate by a 29-9 vote and will next have to be approved by the state House. The bill passed with little debate on the Senate floor, likely because the deal had been discussed so much already, there was little left to say.

If the gambling legislation passes the House, it would then have to be signed by Governor Charlie Crist, which is expected, and then approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior. I haven’t heard anyone talk about the Interior Department’s stance on the deal and whether they are expected to approve it, but since no one is mentioning it, I hope that is because it’s not thought to be an issue.

Strangely enough, while other issues have been hotly debated in the press and around water coolers, the Florida public seems to be rather apathetic about this deal. Though there are some outspoken proponents and a few outspoken opponents, for the most part Floridians don’t seem to care.

Approval of the deal would be good for Crist, who made the unwise decision of including $433 million from this deal in his education budget, despite the fact that the deal had not been approved and thus, the money didn’t exist. Even if support or opposition ramps up for the bill, it is unlikely that it would affect Crist’s decision, seeing as today he vetoed an education reform bill backed by most conservatives. Crist, rather than running for reelection as governor, is running for the U.S. Senate in 2010, but is badly trailing Marco Rubio in the Republican primary polls, indicating that Crist may be in the last few months of his employment by the state of Florida.

Decisions by both the state House and by Governor Crist may be reached as soon as next week. Don’t worry; I’ll update you when it happens.

Seminole Tribal Council Approves Blackjack Deal

Monday, April 12th, 2010

In the constantly updating story on the Seminole blackjack negotiations in the state of Florida, there is yet more news. Last Wednesday, the Seminole tribal council voted to approve the deal offered by state lawmakers and brokered by the tribe’s lawyer.

As I reported earlier, since the deal did not give blackjack rights to all of the Seminole’s casinos, it had to be approved by the council, which includes representatives from every reservation. Since the council has approved the deal, it has cleared another hurdle.

Next the gambling deal has to pass the state legislature, be signed into law by Governor Charlie Crist, and be approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Due to his numerous attempts to pass similar deals, Crist’s signature is all but guaranteed. The deal will bring in $1.3 billion over the next 5 years and will allow Vegas-style slots and table games, including blackjack, in 4 of the Seminole’s 7 casinos.

There is opposition to the deal, with the most vocal opponents being the state’s pari-mutuels, who receive expanded hours of operation but are not allowed to carry slots, blackjack or any table games. The pari-mutuels believe that giving exclusivity to the Seminole casinos will cause a drop in their revenue, leading to layoffs and perhaps even going out of business. Their revenues declined sharply when the Seminole casinos were given the ability to offer slots. With blackjack possibly on its way as well, the pari-mutuel’s days could be numbered.

Opposition to Florida’s Gambling Expansion

Friday, April 9th, 2010

A lot of people, including other blackjack blogs, don’t seem to understand the complexities of the issue of expanded gambling in the state of Florida. As you know, the Seminole tribe has been in negotiations with state lawmakers for a deal that would give them exclusive rights to offer blackjack in their tribal casinos. There is, however, opposition to this deal from third parties. Many gambling writers choose to see only two groups of opposition, the “self-righteous and hypocritical Bible-thumpers” and the “greedy pari-mutuels who don’t want competition.”

Both of those portrayals are inaccurate and they also don’t show other very legitimate reasons for opposing the deal currently being discussed. I will attempt to set the record straight here.

First of all, let me say that as a blackjack player and writer, I am for allowing blackjack in the state of Florida, and every state for that matter. However, just because you support something doesn’t mean you should turn a blind eye to all of the issues surrounding it.

Right now, a lot of people are portraying those pari-mutuels as villains who want to ensure that they have no competition, but that portrayal is so wrong it’s laughable. They say that the dog and horse tracks want to be assured that they’re the only gambling game in town and they want to keep the Seminole tribe from competing with them. In truth, the opposite is true. The Seminole tribe is trying to squash competition and make sure that they’re the only game in town. In fact, that is one of their demands for the contract.

You see, if the current deal is accepted by all sides, the Seminole tribe will have exclusive rights to offer blackjack. That means that pari-mutuels cannot offer the game and it means that if I want to open up my own casino, I can’t offer blackjack, either. That goes against the American ideals of a free market and competition. The last time I checked, Florida was a free state in the free country of America, so how can the state legislature sign a contract stating that one group can provide a service that no one else can?

To be honest, it’s unconstitutional. The U.S. Constitution provides for equal protection and equal freedom for everyone and expressly prohibits giving preferential treatment to any specific groups. The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act states that native tribes may offer any game that is allowed in the state in which they are located. However, blackjack not only is not currently allowed in Florida, but if the current contract is accepted by lawmakers, it would be illegal for anyone other than the Seminoles to provide the game. Therefore, the deal is in clear violation of not only the Constitution, but also the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act as well. The pari-mutuels are not being greedy by trying to avoid competition; they only want to ensure that there is competition and a free, legal market for blackjack.

Religious groups and family organizations are also against the deal, not wanting blackjack to be allowed in the state at all. Some say that they are being too controlling in thinking that they know what’s best for everyone, and that’s probably true. They feel that gambling is immoral and leads to problems in society and for that reason are against it. I think they are wrong, but I try not to judge the beliefs of others. However, there is also this idea that they’re hypocrites because Florida already has gambling in horse and dog tracks (and the current Seminole casinos). That is not accurate, though, because those same groups were also against that gambling and already fought the battle against allowing betting in Florida. They lost and will probably lose this time as well.

There is another misconception that I would like to clear up that is important and that is the money. I’ve heard countless proponents of the deal say that we need to allow blackjack in the Seminole casinos for the children! You see, the money is supposed to go to education and if we don’t get that money, there will be a closing of schools and laying off of teachers and our children will suffer. That, again, is not entirely accurate.

It sounds a little too familiar to me. You see, in 1988, lawmakers in Florida wanted to create a state lottery and the voters were skeptical. Those voters were won over, though, when told that money raised by the Lotto would fund education. Since it was for a good cause, the people voted to allow the lottery. Since then, the Florida Lottery has raised approximately $14 billion for education, approximately 5% of the budget. Here’s the catch, though: In 1989, the state eliminated approximately 5% of the education budget because money from the lottery was going to be used for that. See how that works? They raised 5% from one area and cut 5% from another. That means the net result was zero. The lottery may technically be funding education, but because a proportionate amount that had been used on education is now used for other things, there is not any more money going to education.

Will the same thing happen with blackjack money? I think it already has. If you look at Governor Charlie Crist’s education budget, there is $433 million in imaginary money that comes from the deal with the Seminole tribe that doesn’t exist. He is spending $433 million in money that he doesn’t have on education. What do you want to bet that there is $433 million in funds that had been used for education that have been diverted elsewhere? The money has to be there somewhere, because Florida is a balanced-budget state.

It is likely that the current deal, or something close to it, will pass. When it does, I’m not confident that there will be an increase in spending for the Department of Education. In fact, I don’t think there needs to be more spending on education. I think the spending simply needs to be done more wisely (but that’s a topic for another time).

Whatever happens, though, let’s put away the rhetoric and stop portraying those who think differently as villains. There are always two sides to a story and things aren’t always as they appear.

Crist Game for Negotiating New Seminole Deal

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Florida Governor Charlie Crist twice already has tried to negotiate a deal that would allow the Seminole tribe to legally offer table games at their casinos. In return, the state would get a portion of the revenue. To be more accurate, Crist has twice successfully negotiated those deals with the Seminole, but both times the deals were rejected by the state House of Representatives.

You couldn’t blame Crist for being discouraged. However, on Tuesday the governor told reporters that he would be willing to sit down and negotiate a deal a third time. The Seminole are likely more frustrated than Crist, especially since there are threats of the Feds coming in and shutting down their current blackjack operations. However, that is also motivation for them to get some kind of a deal done. It is hoped that both sides can agree on some sort of deal that would actually pass the legislature.

The governor stated that “we want to do whatever we can to get that money for Florida’s children.” Ah, the children. See, that is another issue that has raised the stakes on getting a deal done. Crist’s education budget includes $433 million in gambling revenue from the Seminole tribe. Without a deal, there is no money and he would have to either cut $433 million from education or take that money from other parts of the state’s budget.

Of course, to play Devil’s advocate, I should point out that Florid voted to create a state lottery in 1986 because it was promised that the revenue would go toward education. Recent studies, however, have found that it does little to affect education.

Aside from working on a new deal with the Seminole, Crist said that he is open to allowing full casinos on the beach in south Florida. Of course, time is a factor in anything that Crist wants to do. He is giving up his governor’s seat this year in an attempt to become a US Senator for the state of Florida. However, he is currently trailing in the polls to primary opponent Marco Rubio, a more conservative Republican. If this takes too long, Crist may be unemployed and spending all of his time on the beach working on that creepy-looking tan.

Delaware Considering Adding Table Games

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Here is what I know about Delaware: It is an American state. It’s in the northeast. It gets pretty cold in the winter. It is close to Maryland, which means it probably has a lot of politicians who can afford to live outside of D.C. And that’s all.

But now that tiny, inconsequential state is making some news. The state’s lawmakers are considering legalizing table games, including blackjack, poker and craps. Yesterday, the House Gaming and Pari-mutuels Committee voted in favor of a bill that allows card and dice games at slot machine casinos in the state. It should be noted that the state already has a state lottery and allows betting on horse races and NFL games.

In the state Senate, a bill was approved that intends to prevent cheating on table games. The aforementioned House bill has cleared the committee but still has yet to come to a vote in the full House.

If passed and signed into law, the “great” state of Delaware would be able to add legalizing table games to their list of accomplishments. Their current list includes: becoming a state.
In exchange for allowing table games, the government would receive anywhere from $5 million to $13.5 million from each casino for licensing fees, depending on their revenue. In addition, the casinos would receive 66% of the gross revenue made from table games, with 29% going to the state and 4.5% going to horse racing purses.

Some state lawmakers feel that the casinos get to keep too large a part of the revenue. The splitting of revenue was determined after long negotiations between each party. According to the Associated Press, if passed as it is, it would be the “second-highest rate of return for any state that allows table games.”

Seminole Tribe Says Blackjack Legal

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

There has been an ongoing battle between the Seminole tribe and the government over blackjack. The government has said that the tribe needs to end the blackjack operations in their casino. The Seminole tribe, never one to back down to the government, has been dragging their feet. Now, they have a new strategy, which is to point out blackjack operations that the state government is letting exist.

According to the Seminoles, pari-mutuel facilities are currently operating virtual blackjack games, where players sit around a television screen and gamble using electronic cards and chips. Which cards are dealt is determined by a random number generator, just like with online blackjack games.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is a federal law passed in 1988 that, among other things, states that Indian tribes have the right to run any game in their casino that is allowed in the state in which their reservation is located. Therefore, if the state of Florida allows the pari-mutuel facilities to operate virtual blackjack games, it would be legal for the Seminole tribe to offer live table-and-dealer games.

At the tribe’s request, federal gambling regulators with the National Indian Gaming Commission visited Broward County in south Florida yesterday to inspect the virtual blackjack machines in question. One such machine is at Mardi Gras Gaming in Hallandale Beach, where the president, Dan Adkins, says that the game is much different from blackjack and is more similar to slots.

This is only the latest complication in the Seminole’s attempt to run a legal blackjack operation in their casinos. Back in 2007, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed a deal with the tribe that legalized their blackjack tables. The state House later voided the deal, which allows the tribe to offer blackjack and gives the state a cut of the revenue, saying that Crist didn’t have the authority to make it. Today a reworked deal to the same effect is expected to be rejected by the House. In the meantime, some members of the House have called for the government to shut down the blackjack tables in the Seminole’s casinos, stating that they are illegal.