The Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Administration of President Biden called for a federal appeals court to reverse a ruling which suspended an agreement that would provide the Native American tribe with the right to control sports betting services in the state.
A legal representative of one gambling company based in Florida argued that overturning the decision would be a “cruel joke”. The aforementioned sports betting deal, signed by the Chairman of the Seminole Tribe – Marcellus Osceola Jr. – and the state Governor Ron DeSantis, and ratified by the state lawmakers in a special session in 2021, paved the way for sports betting to enter the third-largest US state for the first time.
The legal action against the agreement was filed by the owners of Bonita Springs Poker Room and Magic City Casino who alleged that the sports betting plans violated federal laws. Apart from that, the lawsuit also claimed that the sports betting deal would have a massive and potentially detrimental impact on so-called pari-mutuel operators.
As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, the sports betting deal was designed in a way to allow gamblers throughout the state to place wagers online, with the bets processed through computer servers situated on the Seminole Tribe’s reservation land. The agreement, known as a compact, sought to have all bets placed through a mobile application or other electronic device deemed to be exclusively conducted by the Native American tribe.
Opponents of Seminoles’ Compact Agreement Claim the Deal Would Have Detrimental Impact on Their Businesses
In November 2021, US District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that the compact agreement between the Seminole Tribe and Florida and the state Governor breached the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which regulates gambling on tribal lands across the nation, because the deal would give the green light to the provision of gambling services outside the tribe’s reservation lands.
Judge Friedrich also invalidated other parts of the agreement, after finding that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland made a mistake at the time when she allowed the agreement to come into effect in the summer of 2021.
Eventually, the middle of the week saw a three-judge panel of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia hear the arguments in the ongoing appeals that the Tribe and the state have filed. The legal representative of the US Interior Department, Rachel Heron, said that the Secretary acted in line with federal laws at the time she allowed the agreement to go into effect. According to Ms. Heron, the contrary conclusion of the district court had been based on an error of law.
The arguments in court also circled around the issue of whether the compact agreement between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state violates a 2018 Florida constitutional amendment that needs to be ratified by local voters in order to expand gambling in the state.
Ms. Heron claimed that the compact crafted by the state and the tribe was properly read to be consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. She further noted that the deal did not circumvent state law or tried to use the IGRA as a ground for independently authorizing gaming outside Indian reservation land.