U.S District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled Monday the deal that allows online sports betting through the Seminole Tribe violates the federal law that regulates gambling on tribal lands.
Governor DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida celebrated the approval of the historic Seminole Gaming Compact in August after a 45-day review of the agreement was completed by the U.S. Department of Interior.
“The final approval of this historic gaming compact is a big deal for the State of Florida,” said Governor DeSantis in the release. “This mutually-beneficial agreement will grow our economy, expand tourism and recreation and provide billions in new revenue to benefit Floridians. I again want to thank Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls for their part in getting this done for our great state.”
The agreement included online sports betting which took place off of tribal lands but was processed on tribal property.
However, Friedrich ruled that the deal violates the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, or IGRA. The IGRA requires gambling activity to take place on tribal lands. Friedrich wrote, “Over a dozen provisions in IGRA regulate gaming on ‘Indian lands,’ and none regulate gaming in another location.”
The judge called the argument that the online betting was occurring at the location of the computer servers processing the transactions, “fiction.” She added, “When a federal statute authorizes an activity only at specific locations, parties may not evade that limitation by ‘deeming’ their activity to occur where it, as a factual matter, does not.”
The legal wrangling began in July when West Flagler Associates, which owns Miami’s Magic City Casino, and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., operators of Bonita Springs Poker Room, filed a 67-page lawsuit in the U.S. Northern District Court of Florida, alleging the compact violates federal law and seeking an injunction to prevent sports gaming from being legal.
After the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) approved the compact on August 5, the plaintiffs filed a similar 43-page suit in D.C. District Court, claiming the “hub-and-spoke” system violates federal and state laws.
The implementation of the agreement meant that the state of Florida would be part of a $2.5 billion revenue deal that would account for $6 billion in revenue to the state from now until 2030.
At the time of the approval, Seminole Tribe of Florida CEO of Seminole Gaming and Chairman of Hard Rock International Jim Allen expressed his confidence in the compact’s approval process by stating the Tribe’s dedication to the revenue share of $400 million a year will remain intact even if sports betting takes a hit.
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Steve Stewart is the Managing Editor and a contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.