Slot machine disputes heads to Fla. Supreme Ct.

A dispute about the legality of certain electronic games played in bars and other establishments is headed to the Florida Supreme Court.

The 1st District Court of Appeal in August upheld a circuit judge’s ruling that the so-called “pre-reveal” games are illegal slot machines. But Blue Sky Games, which developed the games, and Jacksonville-based Gator Coin, which leased the games to businesses, have filed notices that are a first step in asking the Supreme Court to take up the issue, according to information posted Monday on appeals-court dockets.

The legal wrangling began when the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco ordered two businesses to remove the machines, prompting challenges from Blue Sky Games and Gator Coin.

Supporters of the games have contended that the machines are legal because they include a “preview” feature that advises players of the outcome of the games. But regulators and other critics have argued the preview feature doesn’t matter because the “random number generator” used to create the games equates to the definition of slot machines, which are games of “chance,” under state law.

Also, a key issue has been whether the slot-machine law applies to playing a single game or a series of games. While the outcome of the first “pre-reveal” game is known in advance, a player at the outset does not know the results of subsequent games.

The appeals court upheld a ruling last year by Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper, who originally sided with Blue Sky Games and Gator Coin but then reversed himself. The reversal came after the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which became involved in the case, asked Cooper to reconsider his initial decision. The tribe operates casinos that include slot machines.