Florida court says card room’s ‘player-banked’ games are illegal

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florida-card-room-player-banked-games-illegalA Florida judge has ruled that ‘player-banked’ games at a local card room are illegal, a ruling that could affect all of the state’s card room operators.

On Monday, Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wik ruled that the player-banked games at the Jacksonville Kennel Club‘s bestbet Jacksonville card room violate the state ban on house-banked card games.

The Kennel Club began offering the games last September but it’s been four years since state gaming regulators okayed other card rooms to offer the player-banked games, in which a designated player essentially serves as the ‘house’, i.e. the other players at the table are playing against the designated player rather than each other.

The problem is that these designated players, many of whom work for third party companies, don’t actually play the games. They sit in front of trays of chips, from which the card room’s dealers pay winning players.

The designated players pay the card room a certain amount to ‘buy in’ to the game, as well as a percentage of the money wagered at their table. The 10 Florida card rooms offering player-banked games have come to depend on them for as much as 20% of their revenue.

Van Wyk’s ruling against the Jacksonville pari-mutuel stated that “as currently operated, the designated player is a player in name only.” The current system “does no more than establish a bank against which participants play.” As such, “the games cannot be allowed to continue to operate in the current manner.”

Van Wyk also slammed the state’s gaming regulators as “negligent in failing to stop the games as soon as it became apparent that Jacksonville was operating the games in a banking manner.”

Van Wyk slapped a $4,500 fine on the Jacksonville Kennel Club but dismissed other charges that claimed the individuals acting as designated players were working in a gaming venue without authorization. The card room’s lawyers are expected to appeal the ruling.

The state’s Seminole Tribe held a monopoly over house-banked card games under its recently expired gaming compact, and would have maintained this monopoly under the revised compact that it signed with Gov. Rick Scott last year but which legislators failed to approve before the end of this year’s legislative session.

It was only after last December’s signing of the new compact that state officials started cracking down on the card rooms’ player-banked games, leading the pari-mutuel operators to complain that the action was taken solely to appease the Seminoles.

California card rooms, which are also banned from offering house-banked games, recently dodged a regulatory bullet after the Bureau of Gambling Control determined that player-banked games could continue even if they didn’t rotate the designated player position, provided all action at the table stopped for a two-minute period.


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