A billboard of the Gulfstream Park along Interstate 95 proclaims "Finally, $5 Blackjack". Just a few feet away, a billboard of the Mardi Gras casino proclaims "Virtual Blackjack Baby". These marketing campaigns are part of the latest gambling battleground between horse and dog racing tracks in South Florida and the Seminole Indian gaming empire.
Both want a portion of the gamblers' disposable income and both are counting on the game of blackjack to be a major attraction. But only the Seminole tribe-thanks to their status as a sovereign nation-can offer the traditional blackjack game played on a felt table with real playing cards. Pari-mutuel facilities such as the Gulfstream Park and Mardi Gras only offer virtual blackjack and they had to persuade Florida officials to even permit them that.
Gulfstream Park's Vice President Steve Calabro said on February 7th, 2010 that their machines are doing well and their players love them. While Mardi Gras is staying put with its seven blackjack games for now, CEO Dan Adkins said that the machines are outperforming their slot machines. Mardi Gras offers its virtual blackjack game for as low as $3.
In comparison, the Seminole tribe, never price their blackjack games lower than $10, with some Seminole tables requiring a minimum wager of $25 and above. There is a chance that the electronic blackjack games that pari-mutuel facilities could backfire and cement the Seminoles' right to real blackjack, a casino game that is more lucrative for casino facilities.
The tribe has been criticized by Florida legislators for continuing to offer blackjack even though the casino games are under a legal question. The Seminole tribe struck a gambling deal in 2007 with Gov. Charlie Crist that allowed them to offer blackjack but that agreement was later invalidated by the state Supreme Court because it lacked approval from state legislators.
Some state officials like Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum have requested the federal government to order the tribe to stop offering blackjack and other casino table games.
Now, with the electronic blackjack machines deemed lawful by Florida's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, the tribe is arguing to the federal government that they are entitled to offer blackjack even though there is no an agreement in place. Seminole lawyer Barry Richard said that now that Florida has formally recognized the game, they think that it closes the issue.
The federal regulators are still listening to arguments on both parties and have yet to make a final decision. Meanwhile blackjack players are approaching the new blackjack machines with curiosity.
Virtual Blackjack has been judged the same as slot machines because the results are determined not by actual blackjack game cards but by an RNG (random number generator)-the same way slot machines choose who wins or loses.
Wednesday, February 17 , 2010