Monday, July 1, 2013

Gambling Loopholes

This from the Miami Herald

"Gambling loopholes grow as state waits to reform rules"

By Mary Ellen Klas

Herald/Times

Tallahassee Bureau



TALLAHASSEE -- Days after an administrative law judge ruled last month that the barrel races held at a fledgling North Florida racino were not a legitimate pari-mutuel sport, state regulators crafted a license to allow for “flag-drop” races, the first of its kind, to replace them.

In the last two years, the same regulators have allowed for slot machine operators to run electronic roulette and craps games in Miami-Dade and Broward, allowed a dormant jai alai permit to be used to expand the number of slot machines at Magic City Casino, and allowed Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Racetrack to run a one-time race in June so they could offer thoroughbred races via simulcast year-round.

These are just among a handful of decisions by state regulators that have effectively expanded the gambling footprint in Florida under Gov. Rick Scott.

“There are a couple of clever lawyers out there and we’re seeing a lot of strange decisions,’’ said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, told the Herald/Times. “If the law doesn’t specifically say no, the answer from the department seems to be, always, yes.”

The rulings have not gone without notice by top legislative leaders who have ordered up a comprehensive study of gambling in Florida. They say they want the debate to include the loophole-driven expansion of gambling, as well as a discussion about whether to authorize destination resort casinos being pushed by the world’s gambling giants.

On Monday, legislators will receive the first of a two-part, $388,000 study ordered from Spectrum Gaming Group, a New Jersey-based expert in gambling analysis. The second part will come in October and legislators expect to recommend changes in March that could include whether or not to approve destination gambling.

“It behooves the Legislature to walk through all the statutes very deliberately with the goal of possibly rewriting those statutes to add clarification,’’ said Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee that will conduct the review next session.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, a veteran of the gambling law fight who once lobbied on behalf of the Jacksonville greyhound track, believes the Legislature’s failure to reform its gambling laws has led to the inadvertent expansion of gambling.

“There are people who are looking at loopholes and these things expand gambling,’’ he said. “I’m for closing loopholes. I’m not for expanding gambling in Florida.’’

Lawyers at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, wouldn’t comment Friday when asked about the pattern of rulings.

“DBPR is a regulatory agency that implements the laws created by the Legislature,’’ said Ronnie Whitaker, DBPR chief of staff.

A draft of the first part of the Spectrum report suggests that “the overall financial trend for Florida pari-mutuels has been on a steady downward spiral.” But if the Legislature refrains from putting together a comprehensive gambling plan, as it has in the past, the report warns there will be consequences.

“Based on our research and experience in Florida and elsewhere, gaming will evolve in Florida whether or not the Florida Legislature develops a plan and puts that plan into action,’’ the draft report concludes. “Absent any plan, however, that evolution would be haphazard and would be far less likely to address or advance any public-policy goals.”



Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas

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Editorial Reviews of All or Nothing

New York Times--". . . a cartographer of autodegradation . . . Like Dostoyevsky, Allen colorfully evokes the gambling milieu — the chained (mis)fortunes of the players, their vanities and grotesqueries, their quasi-philosophical ruminations on chance. Like Burroughs, he is a dispassionate chronicler of the addict’s daily ritual, neither glorifying nor vilifying the matter at hand."

Florida Book Review--". . . Allen examines the flaming abyss compulsive gambling burns in its victims’ guts, self-esteem and bank accounts, the desperate, myopic immediacy it incites, the self-destructive need it feeds on, the families and relationships it destroys. For with gamblers, it really is all or nothing. Usually nothing. Take it from a reviewer who’s been there. Allen is right on the money here."

Foreword Magazine--"Not shame, not assault, not even murder is enough reason to stop. Allen’s second novel, All or Nothing, is funny, relentless, haunting, and highly readable. P’s inner dialogues illuminate the grubby tragedy of addiction, and his actions speak for the train wreck that is gambling."

Library Journal--"Told without preaching or moralizing, the facts of P's life express volumes on the destructive power of gambling. This is strongly recommended and deserves a wide audience; an excellent choice for book discussion groups."—Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH

LEXIS-NEXIS--"By day, P drives a school bus in Miami. But his vocation? He's a gambler who craves every opportunity to steal a few hours to play the numbers, the lottery, at the Indian casinos. Allen has a narrative voice as compelling as feeding the slots is to P." Betsy Willeford is a Miami-based freelance book reviewer. November 4, 2007

Publisher’s Weekly--"Allen’s dark and insightful novel depicts narrator P’s sobering descent into his gambling addiction . . . The well-written novel takes the reader on a chaotic ride as P chases, finds and loses fast, easy money. Allen (Churchboys and Other Sinners) reveals how addiction annihilates its victims and shows that winning isn’t always so different from losing."

Kirkus Review--"We gamble to gamble. We play to play. We don't play to win." Right there, P, desperado narrator of this crash-'n'-burn novella, sums up the madness. A black man in Miami, P has graduated from youthful nonchalance (a '79 Buick Electra 225) to married-with-a-kid pseudo-stability, driving a school bus in the shadow of the Biltmore. He lives large enough to afford two wide-screen TVs, but the wife wants more. Or so he rationalizes, as he hits the open-all-night Indian casinos, "controlling" his jones with a daily ATM maximum of $1,000. Low enough to rob the family piggy bank for slot-machine fodder, he sinks yet further, praying that his allergic 11-year-old eat forbidden strawberries—which will send him into a coma, from which he'll emerge with the winning formula for Cash 3 (the kid's supposedly psychic when he's sick). All street smarts and inside skinny, the book gives readers a contact high that zooms to full rush when P scores $160,000 on one lucky machine ("God is the God of Ping-ping," he exults, as the coins flood out). The loot's enough to make the small-timer turn pro, as he heads, flush, to Vegas to cash in. But in Sin City, karmic payback awaits. Swanky hookers, underworld "professors" deeply schooled in sure-fire systems to beat the house, manic trips to the CashMyCheck store for funds to fuel the ferocious need—Allen's brilliant at conveying the hothouse atmosphere of hell-bent gaming. Fun time in the Inferno.

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Bio


Preston L. Allen is the recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature and the Sonja H. Stone Prize in Fiction for his short story collection Churchboys and Other Sinners (Carolina Wren Press 2003). His works have appeared in numerous publications including The Seattle Review, The Crab Orchard Review, Asili, Drum Voices, and Gulfstream Magazine; and he has been anthologized in Here We Are: An Anthology of South Florida Writers, Brown Sugar: A Collection of Erotic Black Fiction, Miami Noir, and the forthcoming Las Vegas Noir. His fourth novel, All Or Nothing, chronicles the life of a small-time gambler who finally hits it big. Preston Allen teaches English and Creative Writing in Miami, Florida.