Florida sports betting faces yet another legal challenge
If you had any hopes Florida sports betting would begin unabated by its potential launch date of Oct. 15 you may not want to read any further.
Another legal challenge was filed, this time at the federal level, against Florida’s recently approved gaming compact. West Flagler Associates, on behalf of Magic City Casino and the Bonita Springs Poker Room, filed a federal lawsuit against Deb Haaland, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, challenging her approval of the 2021 Florida gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. It is the second lawsuit West Flagler Associates has filed on behalf of the Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room against the state’s gaming compact.
Federal lawsuit levied against Florida gaming compact
The 30-year gaming compact was neither approved or denied by the Department of the Interior. The department let the compact go into effect without a ruling, noting in a 12-page letter “the Compact is considered to have been approved by operation of law to the extent that it complies with IGRA and existing Federal law.”
The compact is estimated to bring $6 billion to the Sunshine State over the next 30 years and officially legalizes Florida sports betting. It gives exclusive sports betting rights to the Seminole Tribe, allow craps and roulette, and is estimated to provide $2.5 billion to the state in the first 5 years alone, with annual payments of at least $500 million.
According to the newest lawsuit, the compact unlawfully permits the Seminole Tribe to operate sports betting outside of its own tribal lands, which is not permitted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Florida and the Seminole Tribe note in the compact that online sports betting should be considered legal as the internet servers that process bets coming in from Florida gamblers are located on tribal lands, therefore the bets are technically placed at tribal casinos.
“IGRA authorizes tribal-state gaming compacts—and permits Secretary Haaland to approve such compacts—only to the extent that they concern ‘gaming on Indian lands.'” the plaintiffs claim in the lawsuit.
Does Florida sports betting run afoul of IGRA?
Secondly, the plaintiffs claim the gaming compact violates federal laws by “unlawfully permitting internet and bank wire transmission of transactions and payments related to sports betting between the tribe’s reservations and the rest of Florida, where sports betting is otherwise illegal.”
Lastly, the plaintiffs claim the compact violates the Fifth Amendment and gives the Seminole Tribe a statewide monopoly over online sports betting.
“Additionally, it was arbitrary and capricious, unconstitutional and otherwise unlawful for Secretary Haaland to approve a Compact giving the Seminole Tribe a monopoly on online sports betting throughout Florida. Under IGRA, a tribe is an “Indian tribe, band, nation, or otherwise organized group or community of Indians,” recognized because of their status as Indians,” the plaintiffs claim in the suit.
A hearing for the lawsuit has not yet been set.
Future of Florida sports betting
The newest legal challenge leaves little hope that Florida will kick off its sports betting program with in-person bets by Oct. 15 (the earliest date allowable in the compact). More legal challenges to the compact are likely, as No Casinos Inc. recently announced it was planning to file several lawsuits at the state and federal level to stop the compact.
Additionally, the Florida Division of Elections recently accepted and published a 2022 Florida ballot initiative that would authorize sports and event betting under Florida law at professional sports venues and parimutuel facilities if approved by voters. It would allow Florida online sports betting through third-party operators and by Native American tribes with a gaming compact. The measure is backed by DraftKings and FanDuel.
To be placed on the 2022 ballot the measure must receive 891,589 valid signatures, which is 8% of the votes cast in the last presidential election. It also requires signatures equal to at least 8% of the total votes cast in the last presidential election in 14 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts.