ary of Opinion
The Horsemenís Benevolent
Association sued the race tracks over revenues of video poker games that are
located at the tracks. The question
was whether the Associationís share of the proceeds, which are used to
increase horsemenís purses, was to be calculated before or after certain fees
were deducted. In this opinion, the
Louisiana Supreme Court says that the Associationís share is calculated before
the deductions, thus giving it a much larger share of the proceeds to use for
We granted the writ application
to determine whether the court of appeal erred in reversing the trial court's
grant of partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff. For the reasons
which follow, we reverse the court of appeal, and reinstate the judgment of the
and PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In 1991, the legislature approved
the placing of video poker devices at horse racing tracks and off‑track
betting facilities by enacting the Video Draw Poker Devices Control Law,
Louisiana Revised Statutes 27:301‑24. In 1994, the Louisiana Horsemen's
Benevolent and Protective Association 1993, Inc. (the Association), an
authorized representative of the owners, trainers, and breeders of racehorses on
any matter of interest and concern to them, filed a petition for damages against
the Fair Grounds Corporation; First Statewide Racing Company, Inc., d/b/a as
Evangeline Downs, Inc.; Louisiana Downs, Inc.; and Delta Downs Racing
Association, Inc. (the Tracks). The petition alleged that the Tracks were
incorrectly calculating and distributing income to the Association from the
video poker machines located on the Tracks' premises, contrary to the provisions
of La. R.S. 27:318(A)(1).
The Tracks subsequently filed
motions for summary judgment, arguing that the deductions to the amounts
distributed to the Association were authorized by the video gaming statutes and
regulations promulgated by the Video Gaming Division of the Gaming Enforcement
Division of the State Police, a component of the Louisiana Department of Public
Safety and Corrections (the Division), which is also named as a defendant in the
matter. The Association filed a cross motion for summary judgment on the issue
of liability only, arguing that the law specified only three deductions to the
payable revenue and that deductions for franchise and contractual leasing fees
were not authorized.
The trial court granted the
Association's motion for partial summary judgment and denied the Tracks' motions
for summary judgment, designating the judgment as final pursuant to La. C.C.P.
art. 1915(B)(1). The court of appeal reversed.
Appellate courts review summary
judgments de novo under the same
criteria that govern the district court's consideration of whether summary
judgment is appropriate. Ross v. Conoco,
Inc., 2002‑0299 (La.10/15/02); 828 So.2d 546. A motion for summary
judgment will be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact, and that [the] mover is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." La. C.C.P. art. 966(B). This
decision does not turn on a matter of material fact, but, instead, depends upon
the meaning given to the wording of a statute.
"[T]he task of statutory
construction begins with an examination of the language of the statute itself
... When the law is clear and unambiguous and its application does not lead to
absurd consequences, the law shall be applied as written, and no further
interpretation may be made in search of the intent of the legislature."
State v. Barbier, 98‑2923 (La.9/8/99); 743 So.2d 1236, 1238.
The statute at issue here, La.
R.S. 27:318(A)(1), reads:
When the owner of the licensed establishment is not the licensed device owner of
the devices placed in or on his premises, [FN3] one‑half of the monthly
net device revenues received by the establishment owner, after deduction of
one‑twelfth of the estimated total of annual establishment fees plus one
hundred dollars per device per month and any fee or tax levied by the local
governing authority, shall be used to supplement purses for horsemen as provided
in subsection B of this Section and shall be added to those presently available
under R.S. 4:183. Such monies shall be made available for use as purses monthly,
prior to the twentieth day of the month following the month in which they are
None of the tracks own the video poker devices.
The term "net device
revenue" used in the statute is defined by the legislature as "the
gross revenue of a device less the value of prizes paid as shown on the meters
of the device." La. R.S. 27:301(B)(10). The phrase "received by the
establishment owner," however, is not defined, and is the point of
The defendants argue that because
the money inserted into the video poker devices is removed by the device owners
and not returned to the tracks until after the franchise fee and contractual
fees are taken out, the "net device revenues received by" the tracks
does not include those fees. The court of appeal agreed, observing that although
the "rules and regulations" promulgated by the Division for the
counting and collecting of net device revenues [FN4] were not binding, they were persuasive, and that those
rules and regulations required the two additional deductions to be made before
calculating the amount due the Association. In determining that the Division had
correctly interpreted the statute, the court of appeal also noted that the usual
and accepted meaning of "received" is to "have possession of the
object received." Louisiana
Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Assoc.1993, Inc. v. Fair Grounds Corp.,
01-1002, slip op. at 8, (La.App. 1st Cir.6/21/02).
Division is authorized to promulgate such rules and regulations by various
statutes contained in the Video Draw Poker Devices Control Law.
When two or more interpretations
may be given a law, though, the interpretation which is reasonable and practical
is preferred to that which makes part of the law ridiculous or meaningless.
Langley v. Petro Star Corp. of La., 01‑0198 (La.6/29/01); 792 So.2d
721. Further, laws on the same subject matter must be interpreted in reference
to each other. La. C.C. art. 13.
The paragraph following the
paragraph at issue, La. R.S. 27:318(2), controls the division of funds when the
establishment owner is also the owner of a video poker device. Paragraph 2
the owner of the licensed establishment is the licensed device owner of the
devices placed in or on his premises, one-half of the monthly net device
revenues received by the establishment owner in excess of five hundred dollars
shall be used to supplement purses for horsemen as provided in Subsection B of
this Section and shall be added to those presently available under R.S. 4:183.
Such monies shall be made available for use as purses monthly, prior to the
twentieth day of the month following the month in which they are earned.
Paragraph 2 clearly states,
without any ambiguity, that the only allowance granted to establishments which
own their own video poker devices is a single five‑hundred dollar
deduction. [FN5] One half of the amount remaining after the five‑hundred
dollar deduction is taken goes to the Association for purse supplements. If,
therefore, an establishment owner is also the device owner, the establishment
owes very nearly fifty percent of net device revenues to the Association.
note that despite the plain language of the statute, the Division has
incorrectly allowed the 22 1/2 % franchise fee and $500.00 per video poker
device to be deducted from net device revenue prior to calculation of the amount
of the purse supplement.
Because the two paragraphs were
enacted as part of the same statute and at the same time, it is logical to
assume that the legislature intended that the amount of a purse supplement would
be more or less the same whether the Tracks owned the video poker devices or
rented them. The interpretation given Paragraph 1 by the court of appeal,
though, greatly reduces the amount of the purse supplement from near fifty
percent of net device revenues to an amount as low as five percent of net device
Another accepted meaning of
"received," but one which does not lead to an absurd result, is
"to take in or act as a receptacle for ." Webster's Third New
International Dictionary, 1979. This definition, when used in both paragraphs of
La. R.S. 27:318(A), obtains the consistent result that the monies earned for
purse supplements is approximately the same whether the video poker devices are
owned by the Tracks or rented from third parties. This definition also ensures
that the twenty‑two and one‑half percent franchise fee, which by law
is apportioned to the video device owner, is actually paid by the device owner
rather than being shifted to the Association and Tracks for payment.
We find that prior to the
calculation of the supplemental purse amount, La. R.S. 27:318(A)(1) specifies
that only one‑twelfth of the estimated establishment fee, one hundred
dollars per video poker device, and any local fees or taxes, may be deducted
from the net device revenue.
For the foregoing reasons, the
ruling of the court of appeal is reversed, the judgment of the trial court is
reinstated, and the matter is remanded to the trial court for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
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