Justia Gaming Law Opinion Summaries

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In 2014, Salvatore Groppo pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the transmission of wagering information as a "sub-bookie" in an unlawful international sports gambling enterprise. He was sentenced to five years' probation, 200 hours of community service, a $3,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. In 2022, Groppo moved to expunge his conviction, seeking relief from a potential tax liability of over $100,000 on his sports wagering activity. He argued that the tax liability was disproportionate to his relatively minor role in the criminal enterprise.The district court denied Groppo's motion to expunge his conviction. The court reasoned that expungement of a conviction is only available if the conviction itself was unlawful or otherwise invalid. The court also stated that the IRS's imposition of an excise tax does not provide grounds for relief as 'government misconduct' that would warrant expungement.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court held that because Groppo alleged neither an unlawful arrest or conviction nor a clerical error, the district court correctly determined that it did not have ancillary jurisdiction to grant the motion to expunge. The court explained that a district court is powerless to expunge a valid arrest and conviction solely for equitable considerations, including alleged misconduct by the IRS. View "USA V. GROPPO" on Justia Law

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The case involves a group of bettors who sued Churchill Downs, Inc., and trainers Robert Baffert and Bob Baffert Racing, Inc., after the horse they bet on, Medina Spirit, was disqualified from the 2021 Kentucky Derby due to a failed post-race drug test. The bettors claimed that they would have won their bets under the new order of finish after Medina Spirit's disqualification. However, under Kentucky law, only the first order of finish marked "official" counts for wagering purposes. The plaintiffs brought claims for negligence, breach of contract, violation of the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act, and unjust enrichment.The case was initially heard in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, which granted the defendants' motions to dismiss and denied the plaintiffs leave to amend the complaint. The court found that the plaintiffs' claims were based on the theory that they had "unpaid winning wagers," but under Kentucky law, the first official order of finish is final. Therefore, the plaintiffs' wagers were lost, and the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.The case was then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The appellate court affirmed the lower court's decision, agreeing that the plaintiffs' claims were based on the theory that they had "unpaid winning wagers." However, under Kentucky law, the first official order of finish is final for wagering purposes. Therefore, the plaintiffs' wagers were lost, and the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court also found that the proposed amendment to the complaint did not cure this flaw, so the lower court properly denied leave to amend. View "Mattera v. Baffert" on Justia Law

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The case involves Sutter’s Place, Inc., a cardroom operator in San Jose, California, and the California Gambling Control Commission. Sutter’s Place sought to increase the number of gambling tables in its cardroom from 49 to 64. The request was based on a local ballot measure, Measure H, which was approved by San Jose voters. However, the Commission denied the application, arguing that Measure H did not comply with the requirements of the Gambling Control Act (GCA), specifically a provision governing the text of local ballot measures authorizing expansions of gambling. The Commission's decision was upheld by the San Francisco County Superior Court.Previously, the Commission had denied Sutter’s application for more tables, concluding that the San Jose ballot measure authorizing the increase did not comply with the GCA. The superior court denied writ relief, and Sutter appealed. The appellate court affirmed the lower court's decision, rejecting Sutter's arguments that recent state legislation validated San Jose’s ordinance and abrogated the Commission’s decision denying permission to expand.In the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Sutter argued that the Commission lacked authority to deny a gambling expansion application on the ground that a local authorizing measure fails to comply with state law. However, the court rejected each argument and concluded that the trial court did not err in denying Sutter’s writ petition. The court held that the Commission had the authority to refuse an application that conflicted with state law. The court also found that Measure H did not substantially comply with the GCA's requirements for ballot language. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court's decision. View "Sutter's Place, Inc. v. California Gambling Control Commission" on Justia Law

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The State of Alabama initiated 14 separate actions against various businesses, nonprofit organizations, property owners, and municipalities, alleging that they were responsible for the operation of illegal gambling activities. The State sought permanent injunctive relief on public-nuisance grounds. The Birmingham Division of the Jefferson Circuit Court issued temporary restraining orders (TROs) in each case and later transferred the actions to the Bessemer Division of the same court, extending the TROs in the process.Upon receiving the transferred cases, the Bessemer Division concluded that the Birmingham Division lacked jurisdiction to issue the TROs. As a result, the Bessemer Division dissolved the TROs and dismissed the actions. The State appealed these decisions, leading to the consolidation of the appeals.The Supreme Court of Alabama found that the Bessemer Division had erred in its conclusion. The court clarified that the Birmingham Division did have jurisdiction over the actions and had correctly transferred them to the Bessemer Division, which was the proper venue. The court explained that the Bessemer Division's dismissal of the actions was erroneous and that the correct course of action would have been to proceed with the cases.The Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the Bessemer Division's judgments and remanded the actions for further proceedings. The court instructed the Bessemer Division to conduct a hearing regarding the State's motions for preliminary injunctions at the earliest possible time. View "State of Alabama v. Jay's Charity Bingo" on Justia Law

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In this case, two companies and an individual, all involved in Florida's gaming industry, petitioned against the Governor of Florida and others, challenging a gaming compact between the State and the Seminole Tribe. The petitioners argued that a sports betting provision in the compact violated the Florida Constitution, which limits the expansion of casino gambling to the citizens' initiative process. They claimed that the Governor and Legislature exceeded their constitutional authority by allowing the compact to be enacted. The petitioners requested a declaration that the law implementing the compact was unconstitutional and sought an injunction to stop the Seminole Tribe from continuing to operate mobile sports betting.However, the Supreme Court of Florida rejected this petition on the grounds that a writ of quo warranto, which the petitioners used to challenge the compact, was not an appropriate means to question the substantive constitutionality of an enacted law. The court underscored that quo warranto is a common law remedy used to test the right of a person to hold an office or exercise some right derived from the state, not to challenge the constitutionality of a law. Therefore, the petitioners' claim was beyond the relief that quo warranto provides.The petitioners' reliance on previous cases, where the writ of quo warranto was used to question the Governor's authority to bind the state to a compact without ratification by the Legislature, was also rejected. The court pointed out that these cases were fundamentally different as they did not challenge the substance of the agreement enacted by the Governor and ratified by the Legislature.In conclusion, the Supreme Court of Florida denied the petition, stating that the relief sought by the petitioners was beyond what quo warranto provides and declined to extend the scope of the writ to test the substantive constitutionality of a statute. View "West Flagler Associates, Ltd. v. DeSantis" on Justia Law

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This case concerns a petition for a writ of mandamus filed by various users of the PredictIt platform against the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. The petitioners challenged the district court's decision to transfer their lawsuit against the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (D.D.C.).PredictIt is an online platform that allows users to trade on the predicted outcomes of political events. In 2022, the CFTC Division of Market Oversight rescinded a “no-action” letter it issued to PredictIt's operator, Victoria University, in 2014. The petitioners, claiming injury from the CFTC's decision, filed a lawsuit against the CFTC alleging that the agency acted arbitrarily and capriciously in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and withdrew a license without following necessary procedural steps.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the district court abused its discretion by transferring the case to D.D.C. based primarily on court congestion. The appellate court noted that none of the factors used to evaluate whether a case should be transferred under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) favored the CFTC's chosen venue of D.D.C. The court also pointed out that the district court's decision had implications beyond the immediate case due to the supervisory nature of writs of mandamus. Consequently, the petition for a writ of mandamus was granted, and the district court was directed to request the return of the case from D.D.C. View "In Re: Kevin Clarke" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of Iowa upheld the conviction of the defendant, Sydney Leiann Slaughter, for gambling and making a false claim of winnings. The defendant falsely claimed that she won a slot machine jackpot of $4,000 when her boyfriend was the actual winner. The court found that there was sufficient evidence to show that the defendant had the requisite intent to defraud and had not made a wager contingent on winning a gambling game. The court also held that expert testimony regarding the definition of a "wager" was admissible, and found that the lower court’s error of admitting reference to case law in the expert’s testimony was harmless. The Supreme Court of Iowa affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals in part and vacated it in part, ultimately affirming the judgment of the District Court. View "State of Iowa v. Slaughter" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada, the plaintiff, Steve Wynn, a prominent figure in Nevada gaming and politics, filed a defamation claim against the defendants, The Associated Press and its reporter, Regina Garcia Cano. The claim arose from an article that reported on two separate citizens' complaints alleging sexual assault by Wynn in the 1970s. The defendants responded with a special motion to dismiss the claim under Nevada's anti-SLAPP statutes, which aim to protect the right to free speech and prevent meritless lawsuits intended to chill the exercise of these rights.The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, finding that the article was a good faith communication in furtherance of the right to free speech in connection with an issue of public concern and that Wynn failed to establish a probability of prevailing on the merits of his claim. Wynn appealed this decision, arguing that the district court erred in its analysis under the two-prong anti-SLAPP framework.The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision. Under the first prong of the anti-SLAPP analysis, the court found that the defendants had established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the claim was based on a good faith communication in furtherance of the right to free speech in direct connection with an issue of public concern.Under the second prong, the court clarified that a public figure defamation plaintiff must provide sufficient evidence for a jury, by clear and convincing evidence, to reasonably infer that the publication was made with actual malice. In this case, the court determined that Wynn failed to meet this burden. Hence, he could not establish with prima facie evidence a probability of prevailing on his claim, leading to the affirmation of the district court's order granting the defendants' special motion to dismiss the complaint. View "Wynn v. The Associated Press" on Justia Law

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Ocean Walk, LLC, a company that operates a casino and other entertainment facilities in New Jersey, sought coverage under its commercial property insurance policies for losses sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company claimed that the presence of the virus in its facilities and the government-mandated temporary suspension of its operations constituted a “direct physical loss” or “direct physical damage” to its property under the terms of the insurance policies issued by several defendants. The Supreme Court of New Jersey, however, disagreed with this interpretation and held that Ocean Walk’s allegations failed to meet the policy language's requirements. The court ruled that to demonstrate a “direct physical loss” or “direct physical damage,” Ocean Walk needed to show that its property was destroyed or altered in such a way that rendered it unusable or uninhabitable. The court noted that the company’s allegations did not suggest that the property suffered a physical change; rather, the company was simply not allowed to use its property due to the executive orders. Furthermore, the court ruled that even if Ocean Walk had pled facts supporting the finding of a covered “loss” or “damage,” the losses it claimed were excluded from coverage by the policies’ contamination exclusion. The court affirmed the lower court's dismissal of Ocean Walk’s complaint. View "AC Ocean Walk, LLC v. American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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In Pennsylvania, a group of casinos, including Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, Inc., Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association, LLC, and Chester Downs and Marina, LLC, sued the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. The casinos claimed that online games offered by the state lottery simulated slot machines, violating restrictions imposed by the state legislature and infringing on the casinos' share of the online market. The Commonwealth Court disagreed and dismissed their complaint.Upon appeal, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania found that the Commonwealth Court erred in its interpretation of the law by focusing on individual components of an online lottery game. The Supreme Court held that determining whether an online lottery game violates the prohibition against simulating a slot machine requires a subjective assessment of the game's overall appearance and effect when in play.The Supreme Court vacated the order of the Commonwealth Court and remanded the case for further proceedings, instructing the lower court to focus on the overall presentation and effect of the challenged game, not on individual features. View "Greenwood Gaming v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law