Seminole Tribe responds as fight for Florida online sports betting marches on
The Seminole Tribe claims it was fully within its rights to launch Florida online sports betting in early November and has already suffered “irreparable harm” from a federal judge’s ruling that the 30-year gaming compact be dismissed.
The Seminole Tribe submitted an official response to West Flagler Associate’s argument against the tribe’s request for an emergency stay through the appeal of the gaming compact dismissal. The tribe argues if a motion of stay is not granted, which would allow them to offer sports betting and a planned craps/roulette expansion at Hard Rock Casinos throughout the appeal, it would continue to cause “irreparable harm.”
Seminole Tribe points to loss of revenue
“The District Court’s decision has already greatly harmed the Tribe’s operations, with vendors ceasing operation with the Tribe, and these effects will be exacerbated without a stay,” the tribe wrote in its response.
The tribe did not name any vendors who had ceased operations, but pointed to a new Google advertising policy that would disallow Florida sports betting advertisement on its platform. The policy went into effect on November 24.
One of the main points in West Flagler’s argument against the motion for stay is the tribe’s claim of “irreparable harm” was actually self-imposed. The tribe knew it would likely face legal challenges to the compact, yet it chose to launch online sports betting prior to the U.S. District Court hearing on the compact’s fate.
Tribe entirely within rights for November sports betting launch
The tribe argues it was entirely reasonable to make investments in gaming allowed under the approved 2021 compact. The compact allowed for the launch of sports betting on October 15, and the tribe chose to launch in early November.
“The Tribe never represented to Plaintiffs that it would delay operations until November 15. Plaintiffs made that statement in part to justify their need for a preliminary injunction. They allege only that a representative of the Tribe’s online vendor provided this date “[i]n late May or early June 2021,” before the 2021 Compact was even approved or this litigation was filed,” the tribe argued.
If a stay is not granted, it will economically harm the tribe’s operations. For tribes, gaming revenue is not only business revenue, but also government funding. The tribe noted that its lack of a tax base limits its ability to generate government funding as other governments do.
Federal government did not represent the tribe’s interest
The tribe also argued that the actual defense mounted by the federal government on their behalf did not adequately represented the tribe’s interests. The tribe claimed that the Federal Defendants’ litigation strategy and arguments demonstrated at a practical level that they did not adequately represent the tribe.
“Perhaps the starkest evidence is the District Court’s significant and outward frustration with Federal Defendants’ litigation strategy. The District Court said during the motions hearing that it was “confounded” by Federal Defendants’ litigation position that they did not need to address the merits arguments,” the tribe wrote.
The tribe did mention that the federal government did submit supplementary briefings on the tribe’s behalf, “but omitted significant legal arguments the Tribe would have briefed.”
A date for the motion of stay decision has yet to be scheduled.