State files exceptions to card game ruling


Florida gambling regulators have objected to parts of an administrative law judge’s ruling on poker-style card games being run at a Jacksonville card room.

The Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, part of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, filed exceptions last week to Judge Suzanne Van Wyk‘s Aug. 1. order.

Specifically, it disagrees with her decision to dismiss part of the case in which the state alleged the third-party company workers did not have occupational licenses.

But Van Wyk’s 54-page order is only a recommendation that must be adopted by the department, which can modify it. The exceptions seem to telegraph that officials intend to do just that.

In what was considered a test case for wildly popular poker-type games, Van Wyk said Jacksonville Kennel Club—operating as the bestbet Jacksonville poker room — was “conducting unauthorized card games” and recommended a $4,500 penalty.

Her order found that the games were too similar to blackjack, which is only offered at casinos run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Pari-mutuels, or horse and dog tracks, can and do offer card games in which people play against each other and not the “house.” These are known as “designated-player games.”

Regulators said card rooms offering such games were flouting state law by allowing third-party companies to buy their way into the games, using a worker to act as a virtual bank.

Each designated player is “required to bring a minimum of $30,000 to each table, and takes no active role in the game,” Van Wyk’s order says. “(M)ysteriously, the same number of designated players walk through the door each morning as the designated-player tables (at) Jacksonville open.”

Van Wyk agreed the setup amounted to a sham, saying the “games cannot be allowed to continue to operate in the current manner.”

But she ruled against the state’s contention that the paid designated players needed to have occupational licenses.

Regulators agreed “they essentially did nothing other than occupy a seat,” according to their filing. But they also said even if the “work” performed was negligible, they still needed to be licensed.

Final agency orders can be appealed to a district court of appeal.



Jim Rosica

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 [email protected].

One comment


    August 22, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    No matter how the racino’s try to modify the games the bottom line is there will always be a “single” bank. Unless everyone plays each other at the same time the games are finished. They also have to get rid of the required amount to be the banker since the rules clearly state the banker doesn’t have to cover the bets.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn