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Court asks why it shouldn’t dismiss ‘pre-reveal’ appeal

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

An appellate court was on the verge of rejecting an appeal of a lower court’s decision that entertainment devices known as “pre-reveal” games are in fact illegal slot machines.

Dockets at the 1st District Court of Appeal show that Gator Coin IIthe Jacksonville company that distributes the games—was ordered to show “why this appeal should not be dismissed” because its filings weren’t in order.

An attorney for the company, Bryan E. DeMaggio, responded in a 21-page court filing—including exhibits—that lawyers “inadvertently neglected” to file a copy of Circuit Judge John Cooper‘s final order, filed on July 10.

DeMaggio further said they did not file the earlier order because it was “not … being appealed here.” He then attached a copy of Cooper’s final judgment. He said “the appeal should not be dismissed and the matter should be heard on the merits.”

Dockets accessed Friday show that the court has not yet acted on the filing. DeMaggio did not respond Friday to a request for comment.

Last month, Cooper reversed his previous ruling, saying he had “(gotten) it wrong the first time.”

In March, the judge issued a previous judgment that “pre-reveal” games weren’t slots because players had to “press a ‘preview’ button before a play button can be activated.” If the outcome of the game is known, it’s not a game of chance, he said then.

Cooper’s new order, in part, says that “to have a chance to receive an outcome other than what is currently displayed by the preview feature, the player must commit money to the machine to be privy to the next preview.” That “play pattern” is an “illegal gaming scheme designed to circumvent gambling prohibitions,” his order says.

Cooper changed his mind after a hearing in which Barry Richard, a lawyer for Seminole Tribe of Florida, told him the machines violate the Tribe’s exclusive right to offer slot machines outside South Florida, imperiling the state’s future cut of its gambling revenue by “multi-billions of dollars.”

But Cooper said his reversal was “not based upon whether (the Tribe) likes the (original) ruling or dislikes the ruling,” but by further evidence on how the pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games—as its maker prefers to call them—actually play.

The case got started, records show, when Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) agents found one of the games in a Jacksonville sports bar and told the proprietor the machine was an “illegal gambling device.”

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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