Florida Poker League Loses Appeal in Case Against State Regulators

The Florida poker league Treasure Chest Poker lost its case against state regulators this week in appeals court. The 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed the declaratory judgment made by a circuit court that favored the league and ordered the lower court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Treasure Chest Poker is a free poker league that brings poker games into area businesses. The business filed a complaint in state court against the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (DOABT) after the regulatory body accused Treasure Chest of violating state laws.

The accusations came in the form of multiple notices accusing Treasure Chest of offering games of chance and violating state laws. The company maintained it only offers poker and that all its activities are legal.

In the original court filing, Treasure Chest claimed the notices were having a negative effect on their relationship with area poker players. The league requested the court declare that their business was not violating any state statutes by hosting free poker games.

The trial court granted a declaratory judgment favoring Treasure Chest, which the DOABT then appealed on June 30. According to Appeals Judge Patricia J. Kelly, Treasure Chest failed to prove that their business faced “imminent threat of an administrative action or criminal prosecution,” and therefore was not entitled to a declaratory judgment.

Kelly's judgment leaves the door open for the DOABT to falsely accuse businesses of breaking the law, thereby tarnishing their reputation. It's all legal so long as the DOABT does not threaten to take any real action against the business.

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