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Pari-Mutuel Operators File New Legal Action against Governor DeSantis in Terms of Seminole Gambling Compact

A new legal action filed on September 26th at the Supreme Court accused Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida’s Legislature of exceeding their power by providing local tribes with the chance to offer sports betting services outside their tribal lands without voters’ approval.

After they lost the case in the federal appeals court, a couple of pari-mutuel operators lodged a new lawsuit in the state’s Supreme Court asking the judges to annul the multi-billion-dollar agreement, which would provide the Seminole Tribe of Florida with control over sports betting services in the state, to a certain extent.

The legal challenge was filed by Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. and West Flagler Associates and alleges the Seminole Tribe deal gets in conflict with a constitutional amendment from 2018, under which voter approval is necessary when it comes to casino-style gambling expansion. For the time being, Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. operates as Southwest Florida-located Bonita Springs Poker Room, while West Flagler holds three jai alai licenses.

As CasinoGamesPro previously reported, the controversial deal, also known as a compact, was signed in 2021 by Governor Ron DeSantis, on one hand, and Marcellus Osceola, the Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, on the other hand. Then, it was officially ratified by state lawmakers.

Seminole Tribe’s Compact Violates 2018 Constitutional Amendment, Lawsuit Alleges

As part of the compact agreement, the Seminole Tribe was exclusively allowed to accept sports bets placed from mobile devices outside its reservation lands, with the bets set to be processed through tribal land-based servers.

The last legal action that was filed at the Supreme Court as part of the saga accused Governor DeSantis and local lawmakers of exceeding their power by providing the tribe with exclusive rights to operate sports betting services outside its reservation lands without getting local voters’ approval. The 76-page lawsuit categorizes that as an “abuse of authority”. The legal challenge cited a part of the constitutional amendment under which Florida voters shall be granted the exclusive right to decide whether to allow casino gambling in the state or not. Gambling on tribal lands is exempt from the amendment’s language.

As CasinoGamesPro previously explained, Amendment 3 applies to casino-based gambling services and types of gambling that are considered Class III gambling under the provisions of federal law.

Now, the latest legal action accuses Governor DeSantis and lawmakers of constructing the sports betting plan in a way to circumvent the aforementioned constitutional requirement for local voters’ approval. The lawsuit alleges that Florida’s Governor and lawmakers sought to go around the requirements of the aforementioned constitutional amendment by not limiting sports betting services to tribal lands only and avoiding the applicable provisions of the Florida Constitution.

The new lawsuit came as the pari-mutuel companies mentioned above also called for the US Supreme Court to review the Seminole Tribe of Florida in a separate federal court case that alleges the agreement breaches the provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) under which gambling on tribal lands is currently regulated.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.