A lawsuit challenging the gambling agreement between the state of Florida and the local Seminole Tribe, under which the Native American nation would be able to have a monopoly over sports betting in the state, was officially dismissed. At the beginning of the week, a federal judge rejected the claims of the owners of two pari-mutuel entities.
As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, in July, the owners of Bonito Springs Poker Room and Magic City Casino started legal action against the wide-ranging gambling deal between the state and the tribe, which was already approved by Florida lawmakers.
Under the provisions of the compact, gamblers throughout the state will be able to place online bets on sports through the sportsbook service that would be offered by the Seminole Tribe. However, the aforementioned pari-mutuel entities claimed that the move that would practically allow local people to place sports bets on sports events while being outside the reservation lands will violate federal laws. Furthermore, the two plaintiffs also claimed that online sports betting services offered by the tribe will prey on their customer bases and will generate profit on the backs of the pari-mutuels that are to lose money.
The legal representatives of Governor Ron DeSantis and the state Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Julie Brown, have called for the US District Court Judge Allen Winsor to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that the pari-mutuels had no legal right to challenge the Native American tribe’s gambling agreement because they had not proven the agreement will harm them in its current form.
Pari-Mutuels Unable to Prove Alleged Harm from the Gambling Agreement, Judge Says
On October 18th, US District Court Judge Allen Winsor issued a 20-page ruling, in which he agreed with the arguments presented by the state authorities. He wrote that on one hand, the pari-mutuel entities have the right to take neither the Governor nor the State Secretary to court because the approval given by them to the Seminole Tribe’s gambling compact is not proven to have caused any harm and on the other hand, the requested relief would not provide any practical or legal remedy to the potential harm faced by the pari-mutuels.
A large part of the federal judge’s ruling was focused on two requirements to demonstrate standing in the ongoing legal action. Under the provisions of federal law, the pari-mutuel entities that challenged the gambling agreement of the state with the Seminoles had to allege facts in order to demonstrate they had actually faced some injury. This harm, however, needs to be fairly traceable to the defendant’s challenged action and must be likely to be healed in case of a favorable decision of the court.
However, according to District Judge Allen Winsor, the two pari-mutuels did not manage to provide proof their injuries came as a result of the State Secretary’s actions because her oversight role was unable to affect the actual right of the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer online sports betting services. Furthermore, Ms. Brown’s general oversight under the provisions of the gambling compact did not provide her with the authority to regulate the way the local Indian tribe will operate these services.
The Judge also found that the two plaintiffs were unable to prove that their potential harm came as a result of the Governor’s actions either. He further wrote that the third-party conduct that they aimed at preventing was allowed by the compact itself. Furthermore, he said that the plaintiffs failed to provide proof that a court judgment in their favor would redress the potential harm that will allegedly occur as a result of the agreement.
The plaintiffs argued that a declaratory judgment would have what they called “a cascading effect” – a ruling against the state officials responsible for the allegedly illegal online sports betting provisions would in practice ban the Native American tribe from offering such services to local customers, which on the other hand would prevent the pari-mutuel entities from facing serious economic harm. In their lawsuit, the pari-mutuels also argued that a declaratory judgment would bind the State Secretary to find the tribal online sports betting services non-compliant with the provisions of the agreement.
The US District Court Judge, however, found that neither of the contentions made by the plaintiffs was correct. As mentioned above, Judge Winsor said that they did not manage to prove that an injunction would mend the alleged negative effect the compact would have on the pari-mutuels.