Judge Upholds Rule That Prohibits Pari-Mutuel Employees From Wagering At Place Of Work

Written By Steve Schult on June 10, 2022
FL pari-mutuel employee betting ban

A Florida judge upheld a 2004 law that kept pari-mutuel employees from gambling at their place of work.

Administrative Law Judge G.W. Chisenhall sided with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering earlier this week. According to a report from News Service of Florida, he ruled that the department could enforce the ban.

A Marion County pari-mutuel filed a lawsuit in March protesting the rule. The ownership group of Oxford Downs in Summerfield believed that regulators didn’t have the authority to keep its employees from playing poker in their own poker room.

On the other hand, the state’s legal team believed that the ban was well within the department’s purview.

Judge says the regulatory body can decide who can gamble

Aside from the employee ban, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering can set age restrictions as well. The department doesn’t let anyone under the age of 18 gamble, and it can keep anyone who is “objectionable, undesirable, or disruptive” from placing a bet as well.

In a 13-page ruling, Chisenhall wrote that the division certainly has the ability to set parameters for who can play.

“Distilled to its essence, petitioners’ argument on this point is that the authority to adopt rules relating to cardroom operations does not encompass the authority to adopt a rule prohibiting cardroom employees from participating in authorized cardroom games where they work. However, what is a more basic aspect of cardroom operations than deciding who may, and may not, patronize a cardroom?”

Location is the most likely reason for Oxford Downs’ challenge

Summerfield is located in Central Florida. It is about 85 miles northeast of Tampa and roughly 63 miles northwest of Orlando.

Residents of the city have a median age of 63.8 years old, which indicates it’s likely a popular retirement destination. Furthermore, outside of Oxford Downs, the nearest poker room is an hour’s drive north in Ocala.

The combination of the area’s older population and remote location makes Oxford Downs one of the most likely pari-mutuels to challenge the rule.  In more populated metropolitan areas, employees of a given facility can easily play poker in another nearby room.

Seminole-owned casinos do not fall under the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering’s authority. Thus, they do not need to follow this rule.

However, the Seminole Tribe has a policy that prohibits employees from gambling at their place of employment. Although the tribe allows them to gamble at other Seminole locations.

So if a dealer at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood wants to play poker, he or she must go to a nearby pari-mutuel or a different Seminole property.

Ruling will keep ‘prop players’ out of Florida poker rooms

Florida didn’t get traditional no-limit hold’em cash games until 2010, which was well after the poker boom of the early 2000s.

State regulators allowed for casinos and pari-mutuels to spread poker games in 1996. But only as long as the pot was no larger than $10.

In 2003, they altered the rule to allow for unlimited pot size, but a max bet of $2. In 2007, regulators allowed no-limit hold’em, but only with a max buy-in of $100, regardless of what the blinds were.

The statute changed for a final time in 2010 and rule-makers scrapped the $100 max buy-in. Instead, cardrooms could set buy-in restrictions to what they wanted. It allowed Florida poker rooms to mimic the games in other larger poker markets like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Atlantic City.

However, some of the larger markets would have smaller rooms. And those smaller rooms would use employees to keep games running. These employees were typically referred to as “prop players.” But some establishments would simply use off-the-clock dealers to fill the void.

Prop players would typically be paid an hourly rate by the room to play in short-handed games. Therefore, fewer tables would break and the room would theoretically be more profitable since it can continue to drop rake.

These practices were very common in Los Angeles cardrooms. If the room used off-the-clock dealers, they would not typically be compensated for their time at the table. Dealers were more likely to be used in smaller Las Vegas poker rooms.

Chisenhall’s ruling makes sure that these practices will not infiltrate Florida any time soon.

Photo by Shutterstock / Vladimir Sukhachev
Steve Schult Avatar
Written by
Steve Schult

As Managing Editor of PlayFL, Steve will stay on top of all things related to the Florida gaming industry. He is also a veteran of the gambling world. The native New Yorker started covering high-stakes tournaments in 2009 for some of poker's most prominent media outlets before adding the broader U.S. gaming market to his beat in 2018.

View all posts by Steve Schult