Feds Defends Seminole Gaming Compact, Says It Is Not a Violation of Federal Law


Attorneys for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) relesed a 33-page court document earlier this week saying it did not feel the new Seminole Gaming Compact signed by the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The new compact allows the Seminole Tribe to be the primary facilitator of sports betting in the state. The betting takes place on a downloadable app for smartphones, leading to questions about its legality since the betting does not have to take place on tribal land.

“Federal defendants contend that for federal law purposes, and consistent with federal law, the online sports betting provisions in the compact reflect a permissible hybrid approach wherein gaming activity that occurs off of the tribe’s Indian lands is authorized under state law, and gaming activity that occurs on Indian lands is authorized by IGRA pursuant to the compact,” the court document said.

After the tribe and state agreed to the compact, it was submitted to the DOI for approval and DOI Secretary Deb Haaland approved the compact in August.

While the compact might not be in violation of federal law, many say the compact is still in violation of Florida’s Constitution. A group suing over its legality has said that the compact expands gambling in Florida in violation of a 2018 constitutional amendment that says gambling expansion has to be approved by Florida voters.

“In an effort to circumvent this clear prohibition in the state Constitution, the 2021 compact and implementing law provide that a person sitting on her poolside lounge chair or his couch at home placing a sports bet through the tribe is ‘deemed’ not to be placing a bet that is otherwise illegal in the state. The 2021 compact unlawfully deems the bet to be placed on the tribe’s reservation, where the servers will be located. However, this is nothing more than a legal fiction belied by the fact that sports betting is still taking place outside the tribe’s reservations in a state where sports betting remains illegal.”

DeSantis and Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-FL-65) have said legal challenges to the compact are expected, but they both feel the agreement will win out.

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips. 




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