Late last night, a federal court judge in the District of Columbia ruled that the gambling compact of the Seminole Tribe of Florida with the state violates a federal Indian gaming law, which makes the entire agreement invalid. The ruling stops the further expansion of gambling and sports betting in the state for an indefinite period of time.
Judge Dabney L. Friedrich’s ruling now puts a halt on the new form of gambling that was officially launched by the Seminole Tribe in Florida at the beginning of the month. Furthermore, it also blocks the Indian nation’s Hard Rock casinos in the counties of Hillsborough and Broward from transforming into full Las Vegas-style casino venues.
The 30-year gaming compact that was signed between Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe received the approval of the Secretary of the US Department of the Interior and the local Legislature earlier in 2021. In return for receiving the exclusive rights to operate sports betting in the state and the permission to add some traditional casino games such as craps and roulette to its casino services, the Seminole Tribe agreed to pay the state $2.5-billion tax over the first five years of operation.
Court’s Ruling Efficiently Halts Gambling and Sports Betting Expansion in Florida Indefinitely
Late on November 22nd, Judge Friedrich ruled that the compact with the local Indian tribe breaches the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, under which all state-sanctioned gambling is required to be offered on tribal land only. She also called a fiction the state authorities’ attempt to claim that sports betting took place on Indian lands as all bets were processed through a server situated on tribal property.
The Federal Judge explained that parties are not allowed to evade any limitations that apply under a federal statute.
After announcing her decision, Judge Friedrich ordered the state of Florida to reinstate the prior gaming compact of the Seminole Tribe that took effect in 2010. She also suggested that the Tribe and Governor DeSantis may reach an agreement on a new compact that would also require the approval of the Secretary of the US Department of the Interior. The old agreement allows online gambling services to be offered only on Indian lands.
The Federal Court’s ruling came as a victory for the owners of two gambling venues – Bonita Springs Poker Room and Magic City Casino – and a group of plaintiffs that includes Norman Braman and Armando Codina. They have started separate legal actions against Deb Haaland, the US Secretary of the Interior, making allegations that the gambling compact of the Seminole Tribe of Florida was improperly approved by the representatives of the Federal Government.
The two aforementioned businessmen – Armando Codina and Norman Braman – have been trying to block further gambling expansion of the state for years and even helped finance the 2018 constitutional amendment under which local voters need to approve any gambling expansion in a statewide referendum.
Reportedly, Judge Friedrich’s ruling is now expected to be appealed by the State and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The parties are also expected to request an immediate stay of the order that would effectively block gambling and sports betting expansion.