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State files gambling complaints against racetracks across Florida

State gambling regulators this week filed complaints against seven racetracks in Florida, saying they’re operating illegal card games, according to documents obtained through a public records request.

The pari-mutuels targeted by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling, include:

  • Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach,
  • Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach,
  • Magic City Casino in Miami,
  • Derby Lane in St. Petersburg,
  • Isle Casino and Pompano Park in Pompano Beach,
  • Tampa Bay Downs in Tampa, and
  • BestBet in Jacksonville. 

The department did not comment beyond providing copies of the complaints on Tuesday afternoon.

The state is declaring war on what’s known as “designated-player games” offered in the pari-mutuels’ card rooms. Such games are usually a version of poker in which players take on each other, rather than playing against the house.

The pari-mutuels have said such games are allowed because they’re not like blackjack, which is played against the house and is limited to the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s casinos.

But the tribe has said that designated-player card games, which the state previously allowed, violate the tribe’s exclusive rights to offer blackjack to its casino customers.

Blackjack is offered at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, a short drive from Derby Lane and Tampa Bay Downs.

In return, regulators in the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering have said any form of gambling is illegal unless it’s specifically authorized, and the card games in question aren’t directly allowed under state gambling law.

The administrative complaints, which went out Tuesday, seek penalties of unspecified fines and possible suspensions or revocations of the pari-mutuels’ operating permits.

Representatives of the pari-mutuels could not be reached after hours or did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at

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