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screenshot.576Florida law enforcement officials are cracking down on underground gaming facilities, including the recent shutdown of the Rio Arcade in Port St. Lucie. Sheriff’s deputies raided the Rio arcade and confiscated roughly 100 gambling machines.

“These games are all illegal,” Sheriff Ken Mascara told CBS-12. “This place tends to prey on the elderly, who bring their social security check here and lose it all.”

More Raids In The Works

This is just the latest raid in South Florida. These gambling arcades offer the chance to play slot-like games and be paid out in cash. However, authorities note that the games violate state gaming law.

Everyone playing in the Rio at the time of the bust now faces charges, with the owner and manager charged with the most stringent crimes of running and operating an illegal enterprise.

“Every person that was playing when we entered will be arrested,” Mascara said. “There’s going to be 30 to 40 people that are going to have to deal with a court case. You would have to have your head under a rock not to know that this is illegal.”

The games offered are often termed as “games of skill” by operators in an attempt to circumvent gaming laws. Mascara promised more raids, but similar efforts in the past haven’t curbed attempts to open more arcades.

“Adult game rooms first appeared in Florida in the early 2000s, mostly featuring desktop computers that simulated slot-machine-like games,” the Tampa Bay Times reports. “Operators skirted vague laws by awarding prizes indirectly. Others exploited a law allowing sweepstakes. When some of these arcades closed, others would pop up, finding new loopholes to keep the gambling going.”

Seminoles Receive Positive Sports Betting Ruling, But Still Face Challenges

The crackdown on illegal betting is good news for the Seminole Tribe, which operate the biggest casinos in the state.

Last June, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the tribe and Gov. Ron DeSantis® compelling the Department of Interior to reinstate an agreement making the tribe the state’s only sports betting operator.

Florida originally granted the Seminoles the right to run online sports betting as part of an update to the tribe’s compact in May 2021. However, Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room sued the Department of the Interior challenging that exclusivity.

A lower court ruling in November 2021 derailed Seminole online sports betting, but the latest ruling may allow betting to start back up.

However, some legal experts say the ruling could allow for additional legal challenges. Voters approved a 2018 constitutional amendment barring more gaming expansion and some argue state courts could say the Seminoles agreement violates the will of people. Legal professor I. Nelson Rose argues that the amendment would supersede the compact agreement.

“It doesn’t matter that this court decided that IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) allows the Secretary of Interior to approve compacts for off-reservation gambling,” Rose writes on his Gambling and the Law blog. “The decision does not bind any state nor any tribe, not even Florida nor the Seminoles, neither of whom were parties to the suit. Further, the Court itself made it clear the issue depends entirely upon state law, not IGRA (the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act).”

The plaintiffs have already appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Florida agreement could create a “blueprint for expanding gaming outside of Indian lands” around the country. State court challenges could follow, but betting at least looks to return soon despite potential these potential legal challenges.




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