Court refuses video poker appeal

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 13, 1999

AP and staff reports

On June 30, video poker was shut down in the Louisiana parishes that voted it out — but Gloria Martello, owner of Brocato’s Restaurant in Ferriday, kept the cubicle that had housed the machines for a few more weeks.

&uot;I kept it up for a month, because I&160;thought they might bring video poker back,&uot;&160;Martello said. &uot;I wish they had, because not having it has hurt a lot of businesses.&uot;

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But on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered the final blow. Video poker owners and operators in Louisiana lost a Supreme Court appeal aimed at overturning a 1996 election that led to this year’s shutdown of thousands of machines in 33 parishes.

The court, without comment, turned down the owners’ argument that the election results must be thrown out because they were unlawfully barred from banding together to campaign against repealing video poker.

Louisiana voters were scheduled to vote on a county-by-county basis in November 1996 on whether to repeal video poker, a multimillion-dollar business in operation since 1992.

In August 1996, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board adopted an emergency rule that barred advocates of video poker from organizing and contributing money to political action committees that would oppose the repeal.

Seventeen days before the election, the Louisiana Supreme Court declared the rule unconstitutional. When the election was held, voters in 33 counties decided to repeal video poker.

The poker machine owners and operators asked a state judge to overturn the results in those counties. The judge did so in May, saying the owners showed that the unconstitutional rule was a ”substantial factor” in the defeat of video poker.

A state appeals court reversed the decision in June. The poker machine owners forfeited their right to challenge the election because they failed to seek a postponement of the vote ahead of time, the court said.

The machines — about one-third of 15,000 such games in Louisiana — were shut down at the end of June.

In the appeal acted on Monday, the owners and operators’ lawyers said any effort to delay the election would have been futile because the state appeals court had refused to do so in a different case.

No Louisiana law required the video owners to go to court before the election, their lawyers said.

The case is Premier Games vs. Louisiana, 99-744.