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"Poker" Games Offered in Florida in Murky Legal Waters



  • A number of Florida gaming establishments are under fire from lawmakers. Find out why here.

A number of Florida gaming establishments are under fire from lawmakers for "illegally offering player-banked card games," Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald reported Wednesday.

The parimutuel racing sites named in the Herald's story are Magic City Casino (Miami), Palm Beach Kennel Club, St. Petersburg Kennel Club, Gulfstream Race Course, Jacksonville Kennel Club, Tampa Bay Downs, and Pompano Park Racing. Palm Beach Kennel Club has hosted a World Series of Poker Circuit stop in recent years, and Pompano Park hosts a number of popular recurring series like the Battle at the Beach and the Florida State Poker Championship.

The reason for the crackdown appears to be a number of pseudo-poker variants in which players attempt to make hands against a "house" player, the dealer. Examples named in the piece include three-card poker, two-card poker, casino war, and pai gow poker.

Originally, the state's Division of Parimutuel Wagering classified those games under a law that authorized poker, while "player-banked" games in which a house player is involved are the exclusive property of the Seminole Tribe under a compact with the state. Now, that may be changing, as the Seminole Tribe has filed a lawsuit to stop the player-banked games, the Herald story said.

The racing sites contend they've done nothing wrong.

"We're operating pursuant to the license they gave us and now they're suing us," Chris Kise, a lobbyist for Tampa Bay Downs, said in a story by Jeff Schweers of the Tampa Tribune. "It doesn't make sense. I would say the nature and timing of this complaint seem rather curious."

Indeed, the timing does seem odd given that the Sun-Sentinal, a newspaper that serves South Florida, filed a story in June 2015 about the introduction of two-card poker to Magic City. The story included a note that the game was approved by the state. According to the Herald's story, the games were first introduced in 2012 and have been a staple of the rooms ever since.

Now, though, their future appears to be up in the air.

*Image courtesy of Oscar Murgui/

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