With ‘pre-reveal’ games, it’s déjà vu all over again

slot machines

Illegal gambling is like cockroaches: You kill one and there are dozens more when it came from.

Back in 2013, a multi-state illegal gambling investigation embarrassed the Legislature, resulted in dozens of arrests and eventually took down a lieutenant governor.

Jennifer Carroll stepped down because, before her election, she provided public-relations representation to the company being investigated. Yup, she was never charged with a crime and yet just the past association cost her the job.

Some weeks later, lawmakers outlawed the strip-mall casinos known as internet cafes. Florida now prohibits any “device or system or network of devices” that plays like a slot machine, which – unless you were a South Florida pari-mutuel or the Seminole Tribe – was already illegal.

That was then.

These days, we have a lone circuit judge in Tallahassee that ruled a game that looks like a slot machine and basically plays like a slot machine isn’t a slot machine under Florida law.

Judge John Cooper, in a case first reported by FloridaPolitics.com reporter Jim Rosica, last month said the entertainment devices (ha!) known as “pre-reveal” games were “not an illegal slot machine or gambling device.”

Are we the least bit surprised that lawmakers, historically unable to pass the least kind of gambling reform, again let the courts make what’s essentially a major policy decision about betting?

“I see a giant wave coming,” said one unnamed person in Florida’s gambling industry. “My phone is blowing up from people (at pari-mutuels) who want these” pre-reveal games.

The judge’s ruling, taken to its logical conclusion, means pre-reveal games will pop up everywhere in the state: restaurants, bars, and probably other places where kids will be exposed to them. I have to think, in some way, that’s worse than giving slots to pari-mutuels in the handful of counties that passed a slots referendum.

Let’s cut to the chase: The House needs to reach a reasonable deal with the Senate to pass a gambling bill and regulate this stuff once and for all. Lawmakers cannot afford to allow for the thousands of pre-reveal games that will enter the state if nothing is done to stop them.

We know the drill. The pre-reveal game manufacturers will hire lobbyists, armed with the Cooper decision, and become a constituency that cannot be stopped if they are not banned this Session.

I won’t mention at length that the state allows “summer jai alai” permits, which turns into card rooms in hotels. And that the state Supreme Court still has not ruled on whether to allow slots in referendum counties.

It’s time for the Legislature to have courage and take action, rather than capitulating its authority to the courts and crafty gambling attorneys.

Reach a deal with the Tribe that limits gambling expansion for 20 years and regulate what we have. If a deal needs to include slots at referendum counties that have passed a referendum, so be it.

That’s still better than ruining the Florida brand by becoming Nevada, with pre-reveal “slots” at every restaurant, bar and gas station.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


  • Jmr

    April 12, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    You work for the Seminole’s? Never have seen a slot machine that told you the result of the next play before you committed any money and gave you the ability to pull back your money and opt out?

  • Christopher W. Wickersham, Jr., Esq.

    April 14, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    As the fellow who originally came up with the prepayment disclosure of results for electronic entertainment devices 4 or 5 years ago to comply with CSHB 155, I disagree that it is in any way illegal under Florida law, or likely any other state.

    What kind of “slot machine” tells you the results before you risk any money ?

    And if you then choose to play anyway while already knowing the exact outcome, then where’s the element of chance required under Chapter 849 or any of its subsections ?

    If you make a computer game that lacks the element of chance, it’s not gambling, period. This isn’t a language failure on the legislature’s part, the issue is that you can’t outlaw an electronic device that doesn’t contain the element of chance by labeling it a slot machine, just because you want it to be illegal. If you tried to do so, the language would be so broad you’d wind up with everything from your cellular phone to your computer being a slot machine.

    The determinative factor is whether or not the outcome contains the element of chance, and if you already know the results going into it, then you have your answer.

  • lulugator

    April 23, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    In reply to Mr. Wickersham, Jr. — while you may be the “brainchild” of pre-reveal, you fail to disclose that money must be placed in the machine, non-refundable, before “pre-reveal” applies, after determining amount of play and one hits “play”, by mouse or touch- screen. Only amount redeemable is your winnings, IF that occurs. Tell the facts while you pat yourself on the back.

Comments are closed.


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