Why Floridians Can’t Play Craps And Roulette: Seminole Casinos And The State

Written By Darren Cooper on April 14, 2022 - Last Updated on August 17, 2023
Seminole Casinos Are In A Bit Of A Bind With Class III Games

When it comes to gambling, the Sunshine State continues to spin its wheels with competing interests. Seemingly locked in a battle over Florida’s new gaming compact signed with the Seminole Tribe in May 2021.

Sports betting is paused, and Floridians can’t play craps and roulette at Seminole casinos. But, after a court decision at the end of June 2023, gamblers may be able to partake in them by September 2023 if court appeals or staffing issues arise. For now, Florida is in limbo.

Until then, here’s a breakdown of the limitations on craps and roulette in Florida. Also, in the meantime, if you want to play casino games online, you can sign up for any of these social casino sites in Florida and play for a chance to win digital coins you can redeem for cash prizes.

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Head of the Class

Let’s start with the concept of how casino games are classified.

When Florida reached its first deal with the Seminole Tribe to allow it to operate casinos in Florida, there were three classes of games invented. Class I was merely for tribal ceremonies or charity games. Think your local car raffle or 50-50.

Class II is bingo. OK, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but basically bingo, but it also allowed for ‘electronic, computer or other tech aids.’ So that meant a computer could pick the bingo numbers. And if a computer could pick the bingo numbers…..

Then we had Class III, these are your table games like blackjack, roulette and craps.

When the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed in 1988, it allowed for Class I and Class II games, but limited Class III. Why? Because those games were believed to be more social in nature and less immoral at the time.

Previous compact allowed Seminole casinos to spread a few Class III games

Yes, Seminole-owned casinos do have slot machines. In the 2010 gaming compact, the state allowed for the tribe to spread certain Class III casino games.

The prior agreement allowed the Seminole Tribe to offer slot machines and house-backed card games like blackjack. But not traditional craps and roulette games.

However, the compact would allow for the electronic versions of those games. As a result, the tribe installed ‘bubble craps’ machines and machine-operated roulette wheels at a couple of their larger properties.

In other words, the government allows the Seminoles to spread those games as long as there isn’t a human dealer.

As stated in section IV of the compact:

“Except as otherwise provided in this Compact, nothing gives the Tribe the right to conduct roulette, craps, roulette-styled games, or craps-styled games; however, nothing herein is intended to prohibit the tribe from operating slot machines that employ video and/or mechanical displays of roulette wheels or other table game themes.”

Now the legal stuff

Luckily for Florida gamblers, there is an appetite in the legislature to expand casino gaming options.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe Council Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. signed a new gaming compact in April 2021. It legalized sports betting, allowed the Seminoles to offer a complete array of Class III games and permitted pari-mutuels to spread house-backed card games.

This is where it starts getting complicated. In 2018, Florida citizens passed Amendment 3 and voted to not allow state lawmakers to have the right to expand gambling in the state. Instead, voters would get the final say at the ballot box.

But lawmakers went ahead and did it anyway. Immediately, interest groups called foul.

A lobby group called Nocasinos.org was like, ‘you can’t do that, we voted in 2018 that only the people can approve this.’ They filed a lawsuit with the intent to overturn the compact. They cited Amendment 3 as cause for rejecting the agreement.

The other issue was that Florida basically gave the Seminole Tribe a monopoly on sports betting. Pari-mutuel facilities, and big-time sports betting companies like DraftKings and FanDuel, want a piece of that action, you know?

They decried the methodology saying the concept of sports betting being legal because the servers are on Seminole land doesn’t make sense.

The Havenick family, who owns Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room, filed suit over the sports betting model.

Federal Judge Dabney L. Friedrich agreed. She said the compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

In June 2023, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the gaming compact, vacating Friedrich’s decision. Two months later, the Havenick family filed for a rehearing, arguing the Court of Appeals’ decision is a departure from previous opinions in regard to IGRA.

Because the two games are a part of the 2021 compact, craps and roulette could be offered as early as September 2023 pending on hiring enough staff. One expert believes that craps and roulette won’t be unveiled at that time due to how long it would take to bring in new dealers specifically for those two games. Another predicts craps and roulette could be rolled out by the Christmas holiday season.

Why does the Federal Government care?

When it comes to Native Americans, the federal government always tries to walk the fine line of giving restitution for their decades of mistreatment, while also wanting them to work as partners. It’s a particularly dicey situation in Florida, because of the legacy of the Seminole Tribe and its history of gambling establishments.

Mix that in with the booming sports betting market and the expansion of gambling options statewide and there are so many competing interests. Don’t forget about Disney too.

The company weren’t in favor of expanded gambling options in Florida for a long time, preferring that disposable income flow into one of its theme parks. But ESPN (owned by Disney) just entered into a $2 billion agreement with Penn Entertainment to lend its name to Penn’s mobile sports betting app.

Florida forever remains in a class by itself.

Photo by Shutterstock.com
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Written by
Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

View all posts by Darren Cooper