FGCC Denies Request By Orlando Pari-Mutuel To Add Jai-Alai Matches

Written By Steve Schult on August 11, 2022
Florida Gaming Commission says no to more jai-alai

In one of its first major decisions as a regulatory body, the Florida Gaming Control Commission voted to keep a Central Florida fronton from spreading jai-alai matches this year.

Last week, the five-member panel voted unanimously to deny Orlando Jai-Alai’s request to add 40 performances to their schedule.

Unfortunately for the pari-mutuel facility, the commission already approved the state’s jai-alai schedule last December. As a result, the commissioners decided it would violate state law to permit the addition.

The game is one of the few events Floridians can legally bet on. With a potential Florida sports betting industry tied up in the court system, pari-mutuels can only accept wagers on horse racing and jai-alai.

Thanks partly to Magic City Casino’s Battle Court league, the sport is experiencing a recent resurgence in popularity.

The commission’s ruling stays consistent with its mandate

Bryan Barber, the public records coordinator for Florida’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, told PlayFL that the new commission’s mandate was to follow the current “laws and statutes governing the state of Florida.”

Section 116.712 of Florida’s penal code gets more specific with the commission’s responsibilities. According to rule 1c of that section, the commission can not interpret any laws that expand authorized gaming activities.

Commission Chairman John MacIver said the law constrained the commission from approving the request without citing the specific rule:

“According to the statute, we don’t have the authority to approve this, and if we did approve it without that authority, we would be authorizing what is illegal gambling,” said MacIver. “I generally think the people in the state who are trying to follow the rules … deserve as much help and assistance from us on the regulatory side. It’s a bad outcome, but it’s a bad outcome we are forced to make because of the authority that we have.”

The commission made a handful of other decisions

Aside from denying Orlando Jai-Alai’s request to alter their license, commissioners made four other rulings in their Aug. 4 meeting.

The Casino at Dania Beach requested to add a table to its 21-table poker room.  And Magic City Casino filed a renewal of its slot machine license. The commission approved both requests.

Additionally, the commission banned Natalie Shaw and Ivan Francisco Arias Garcia from the state’s pari-mutuel facilities.

Miami Gardens police arrested Shaw for leaving her child in her car while she gambled at Calder Casino.

On the other hand, Garcia was booted from Magic City Casino for “capping” his bets. Capping bets is a common gambling term for trying to add chips to a bet that already has a positive outcome.

Both received permanent bans.

Third meeting since FGCC gained authority over the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering

Following the passage of the now-contested Florida gaming compact last year, the state legislature passed a bill creating the FGCC. But the regulatory body didn’t start to make any meaningful impact on the market until Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed the board’s five members last May.

Before the commission’s creation, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering was the authority for all things Florida gambling.

But on July 1, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering became part of the FGCC. The FGCC gained ultimate jurisdiction over the market following the merger.

The FGCC makes the ultimate decision, but the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering looks over every case beforehand. In fact, they submit an overview of it and offer a recommendation to the FGCC for every decision on the agenda.

Last week’s meeting marked the third time the FGCC met since the merge but it was the first time any newsworthy decisions were made.

The first meeting came on July 6 and the second on July 27. The upcoming hire of the Director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement was the topic that dominated the two meetings.

Photo by Shutterstock / OSTILL is Franck Camhi
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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.

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