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Judge says no to Gretna track in gambling dispute

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A federal judge has turned down a request by a North Florida race track to alter his ruling allowing the Seminole Tribe of Florida to keep blackjack at its casinos.

But the loss turned out to be a win for the track’s own card games.

Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued his order Wednesday. Gretna Racing in Gadsden County had moved to intervene last week.

Its attorneys, David Romanik and Marc Dunbar, had asked Hinkle to remove the part of his ruling they say could make it a “crime” for the track’s cardroom to continue offering certain card games. Romanik and Dunbar also are part-owners of Gretna Racing.

Hinkle called the move “untimely.”

The track “has no protectable interest in the compact between the Seminole Tribe and the State,” he said. “The judgment in this case has no binding effect on Gretna, and the order explaining the judgment will have a practical effect only to the extent a future tribunal finds the reasoning persuasive.”

Hinkle’s decision, then, in the Tribe’s case has no effect on Gretna’s or other tracks’ card game operations.

“We are certainly appreciative of the judge’s consideration,” Dunbar said.

At issue was the track’s offering certain card games that Hinkle based his Seminole decision on.

The judge ruled that regulators working under Gov. Rick Scott allowed certain Florida dog and horse tracks, including Gretna, to offer card games that mimicked ones that were supposed to be exclusive to tribe-owned casinos for a five-year period.

Because of that, Hinkle decided the Tribe could keep its blackjack tables till 2030.

The state wanted Hinkle to instead order the tribe to remove the games because a blackjack provision in an agreement between the state and tribe expired last year.

The Gretna track also has a case pending before the Florida Supreme Court on whether to expand slot machines in the state. Voters in Gadsden County, where the track is located, and six other counties passed local referendums to approve slots.

Background material from The Associated Press, reprinted with permission. 

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

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