Governor DeSantis Appoints Five Members To Florida Gambling Control Commission

Written By Steve Schult on May 10, 2022
Florida Gaming Control Commission

Late last Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed and reappointed five members to the Florida Gambling Control Commission.

DeSantis appointed John MacIver and John D’Aquila to Florida’s newest gambling regulatory body. He also reappointed Julie Brown, Michael Yaworsky and Charles Drago.

DeSantis reappointed Brown but in a commissioner role. She was the commission’s inaugural chairwoman when DeSantis appointed her last December. MacIver will now serve as Chair of the Commission.

Yaworsky will resume his role as Vice Chairman while Drago continues in his position as a commissioner. The press release doesn’t specify what position D’Aquila will hold. However, it seems likely he will serve as a commissioner as well.

The Florida Senate needs to approve the appointees. But it is highly unlikely that lawmakers will reject the decision.

DeSantis’ move comes a little more than a month after Louis Trombetta was named Executive Director at the commission’s first-ever meeting.

Florida Gambling Control Commission expansion points towards bullish outlook

The state legislature created the Florida Gaming Control Commission about a year ago. It came shortly after DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe agreed to terms on a new, 30-year gaming compact.

The compact would’ve expanded gambling options at both pari-mutuels and Seminole-owned casinos, as well as legalized sports betting. With the state set to massively expand its gambling market, lawmakers felt it necessary to create a new regulatory body.

A federal judge deemed the compact illegal last November. It jumpstarted the appeals process but stalled any semblance of gambling expansion.

It didn’t stop the government from continuing with its plan to establish a new gaming commission. This is in addition to the oversight already in place that was setting rules for what is now an unchanged market.

By not only creating but expanding the new committee, it appears that DeSantis and legislators believe gambling expansion will come at some point soon.

According to the government website, the FGCC takes on the following tasks:

  • Exercising all regulatory and executive powers of the state on all forms of gambling authorized by the State Constitution or law including pari-mutuel wagering, card rooms, slot machine facilities, and the oversight of gaming compacts under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act but excluding state lottery games authorized by the State Constitution
  • Ensuring state laws are not interpreted to expand gaming
  • Referring criminal violations of state gaming laws to the appropriate state attorney or to the Office of Statewide Prosecution, as applicable
  • Reviewing any matter within the scope of jurisdiction of the Department of Business Services’ Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering

Florida sports betting and gambling expansion tied up for a while

There is hope that Florida sports betting is coming soon. Soon is relative, though, especially when it comes to government timelines.

The gaming compact drafted by DeSantis and the Seminoles is facing two separate lawsuits. One is from Monterra AF LLC, which is trying to stop Class III gaming from coming to Florida.

West Flagler Associates filed the other lawsuit. West Flagler is the ownership group of two pari-mutuel facilities. They sued the state over the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model used in the compact’s sports betting provisions.

The federal government is the defendant in both suits since the Department of the Interior passed the deal. The feds believe the lawsuits should be combined. If a judge agrees, the government would only fight a single court case over the compact.

However, Monterra filed paperwork last month claiming that the two lawsuits hinge on separate legal precedents. Therefore, the legal team believes the cases should be separate.

Legal experts believe that with the most recent filing, the next step of the appeals process could take anywhere from six to 12 months to resolve.

It makes early-2023 the most likely scenario for any sort of a ruling. One may not come until late-2023 or early-2024 if multiple appeals take place. But after looking at other states’ timelines for the implementation of sports betting, that would be considered ‘soon.’

Photo by Shutterstock / Spencer Hopkins
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Steve Schult

Steve Schult is a veteran of the gambling industry with more than a decade of experience covering the space. After earning his journalism degree from Marist College, the New York native began covering high-stakes poker tournaments and the U.S. gambling industry for various outlets. Following stints as a writer for Card Player Media, Bluff Magazine and the World Series of Poker, Schult will serve as the Managing Editor for PlayFL.

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