Judge reverses ruling on slot machines in Florida

A judge Monday reversed a previous decision about devices, known as “pre-reveal games,” that critics argue are unregulated slot machines.

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled Monday that the electronic devices, in use in bars, strip malls and convenience stores throughout the state, violate a law banning slot machines outside of approved sites.

Cooper held the hearing after Florida gambling regulators and the Seminole Tribe asked him to reconsider a March ruling in which he authorized the games. The controversy centers on electronic games known as “Version 67,” which are produced by Blue Sky Games, leased by Jacksonville-based Gator Coin Inc., and typically found in bars.

In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, the Seminoles called on the Legislature to address the issue or risk having the state lose millions of dollars in a revenue-sharing agreement that gives the tribe exclusive rights to operate slots outside Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Blue Sky and Gator Coin sued the state after investigators with the Division of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms confiscated the machines, alleging that the computer games are effectively illegal slot machines.

Cooper originally sided with the manufacturer and the distributor of the machines, finding that they don’t violate prohibitions against slots because the games include a “preview” feature advising players of the outcome “before the player commits any money to the game by activating the ‘play’ button.”

But on Monday, Cooper said he had erred. “He said he was convinced he had made the wrong decision. He said he made a mistake and he felt these machines were slot machines within the meaning of the statute,” Barry Richard, who represents the Seminole Tribe, told The News Service of Florida after Monday’s hearing.

Richard said lawyers will likely file recommended orders in the case next week.

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