Florida Gov. DeSantis Appoints First Three Members to New Gaming Control Commission

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced the first three members of the new panel that will oversee gaming in the state starting next year.

Julie Brown
Julie Brown
Julie Imanuel Brown, seen here in a public service announcement for the Florida Public Service Commission, has been named by Gov. Ron DeSantis as the first chairperson for the Florida Gaming Control Commission. (Image: Florida Public Service Commission)

Last week, DeSantis appointed Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Julie Imanuel Brown, Office of Insurance Regulation Chief of Staff Michael Yaworksy, and former law enforcement officer Charles Drago to the Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC).

Brown was appointed chairperson, with Yaworksy named the vice chair. Both, if their appointments are approved by the state Senate, will serve four-year terms. Drago, who also previously served as the Business and Professional Regulation Secretary, will serve for three years pending the Senate’s confirmation.

Brown’s term as Business and Professional Regulation Secretary was short-lived. DeSantis appointed her to that role in February after she served nearly a decade on the Public Service Commission. That included a two-year stint as chair of that regulatory body, from January 2016 to January 2018.

The FGCC was established in May through Senate Bill 4. That bill was passed during a special session called to ratify the amended gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

In addition to having regulatory authority over the state’s tribal gaming compacts, the newly created commission will also oversee pari-mutuel operators, cardrooms, slot parlors, and other forms of gaming allowed by the state constitution excluding the Florida Lottery.

SB4 calls for the FGCC to have five members, with all of them appointed by the end of this year.

The five commissioners will each earn the same salary as the state’s Public Service Commissioners. According to FloridaSalaries.org, that amount is $132,036 annually.

The FGCC will launch officially on July 1, 2022.

New Law Also Establishes Enforcement Division

In addition to the five commissioners, the Gaming Control Commission will also have an executive director. The commissioners must appoint a director by April 1. That individual will also earn $132,036 annually. An inspector general will also be appointed by Brown.

Besides the FGCC, SB4 also calls for the creation of the Division of Gaming Enforcement, a criminal justice agency in the state. Investigators within the division will be allowed to enter any facility where gaming is occurring. They will also have the right to search and inspect any gaming premises if they believe a violation has occurred.

The FGCC will also have the right to subpoena witnesses for hearings, including the right to compel testimony and the submission of evidence.

Florida Compact Nixed by Federal Judge

While the gaming control commission is being established, the amended gaming compact that the state set up with the Seminole Tribe earlier this year has been set aside by a judge’s order.

US District Judge Dabney Friedrich threw out the compact in its entirety last month in a District of Columbia federal court after ruling in favor of two pari-mutuel operators who claimed the online and off-tribal land sports betting provisions of the new compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The Seminole Tribe launched online sports betting in November and continued operating the app statewide even after Friedrich’s ruling. It was not until after a federal appeals court turned down the tribe’s request for a stay earlier this month that the tribe suspended the operation of its Hard Rock Sportsbook.

It remains to be seen whether the tribe and the state will look to revise the gaming compact to limit sports betting to tribal lands. The compact also granted the Seminoles the opportunity to add roulette and dice table games at their six casinos in the state.

Limiting sports betting to tribal lands will likely lead to a reduction in the payments the tribe agreed to make to the state. The compact called for Florida to receive $2.5 billion over the first five years of the agreement.

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