Commission tables request for card room employees to play poker where they work

oxford downs room
State regulations prohibit the practice.

It’s a specific problem for a specific area card room workers who like to play poker themselves yet have to go out of town to do so because their card room is the only one nearby. 

State regulations prohibit playing where you work, but the owners of Oxford Downs in Marion County are looking for a variance that would help them and their workers, and perhaps other similarly situated operations.

Whether those workers will get that chance has yet to be decided.

“Where Oxford Downs is located, we’ve got a number of employees in the card room who have expressed interest in playing poker,” attorney John Lockwood said to the Florida Gaming Control Commission at its regularly scheduled meeting in Tallahassee. “Pretty much, across the state, people in the poker industry that work in the poker industry, generally like to play poker.”

Most times, these workers are employed in businesses near other card rooms or casinos, which isn’t the case here.

“These players are forced to drive to Tampa, Jacksonville, other rooms that are nowhere near close to them,” Lockwood said. “What we’re looking to do is provide some accommodation to ensure these players are not hosting home games or anything like that. We want to bring all of these operations into a licensed and regulated card room.” 

The variance asked for would only apply to cash poker games and employee-participation tournaments. Both the card room owners and Commissioners expressed a desire to make sure patrons don’t have to sit at a table with employees because of any perceived advantage the employee might have by knowing the dealer or simply working at the business.

Oxford Downs ownership already filed a challenge to the occupational licensing rule at the center of the discussion. 

“We would intend, if this variance is granted and allowed for these six tables over a period of one year, that the plan would be to withdraw that rule challenge,” Lockwood said.

He noted different jurisdictions treat the issue differently, so there’s no set path.

Several Commissioners expressed a desire to see some hard numbers on what card room management believes they’re missing out on by not being able to have their workers play at the same facility.

Commissioner John D’Aquila said making a decision on just the claim of a “substantial financial decline, here, without numbers, it just leaves me to pause. It opens up the floodgates.”

“That part’s missing,” he said. “We call it wiggle room, or maybe the way the statute’s written. I’m just having a hard time digesting that.”

Lockwood made his case for hardship, Commissioner Julie Brown said, but she agreed with D’Aquila that the Commission needs the statistical details to appropriately make their call on the variance.

The petitioners would have addressed those issues already, Lockwood said, but weren’t aware that it was necessary. They plan on returning to the Commission with the data requested in order to move forward on the variance.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:

One comment

  • Sonny

    November 7, 2022 at 10:02 pm

    Not a good idea. Allowing employees to gamble at the facility they work at only promotes embezzlement. Employees that have a tendency to lose which is 99.99% like all poker players will find themselves working for free and start stealing money/chips to offset the losses to pay for their food, housing, gas, family, insurance, debts and so on. The casino will actually be promoting and preying on their own employees vice to gamble which could lead to a host of major problems incuding depression and suicide.

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