The Seminole Tribe in Florida was taking bets throughout the state on its mobile platform courtesy of a compact with the state on its Hardrock Sportsbook App. However, shortly before it started, it ended – or was supposed to end.
On November 23rd, the tribe’s brief dalliance in the bookmaking business was slated to come to an abrupt halt due to a judge’s ruling that taking bets from customers not physically on tribal land was illegal. However, the tribe countered that it was the servers that actually processed the wagers and those were housed on tribal property.
The judge, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich, didn’t buy their argument and called it “fiction” before she gaveled her ruling, stating it breached the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Despite the decision, the Seminoles continued to make books because they had filed an emergency stay until the appeal was heard.
Seminoles Forced to Suspend Bookmaking Operations
On December 3rd the stay was denied and the tribe was forced to shut down the servers. Just like that, legal sports betting was one and done in the Sunshine State. And to make things even stickier, a legal expert is contending that all the wagers accepted on the mobile platform, and off of tribal land, could be considered illegal, and refunds on all losing bets would be the next logical step.
Daniel Wallach, a Florida-based attorney who specializes in gambling law, spoke to Gaming Today and opined, “Every wager made after Judge Friedrich ruled is an illegal wager. Her ruling means the wagers were illegal [so losing bettors have] a potential claim.”
But recouping those funds from the lost bets would be another kettle of fish. Individuals going it alone would be bucking big odds and the time, effort, and money it would take could be all for naught. Short of a class action suit, it is likely a lost cause, but mobile betting in Florida is not. It has likely just hit a speed bump before negotiations with the interested parties are negotiated or a new compact is written between the state and the Seminoles that allow for customers to be located elsewhere than on the tribal property when they place their bets.
Sportsbooks Looking to Get Their Slice
FanDuel and DraftKings are jealously eyeing their piece of the sports betting pie while the Seminoles were assured the entire pie was theirs and no splitting was required. The two sports betting players have been busy gathering signatures, currently, over 173,000 of the 891,000 needed. If they succeed in getting those signatures, a referendum could be put to the voters and that’s when their public relations companies would go into overdrive, convincing voters to vote their way on the ballot.
The Department of the Interior neither supported nor denied the compact but because of their non-action they stated, “as a result, the Compact is considered to have been approved by operation of law to the extent that it complies with IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) and existing Federal law.” That was the entrée the Seminoles needed to initiate sports betting on a statewide basis after Governor Ron DeSantis signed the pact. But things have certainly changed since the ruling and there is both a federal appeal and another one on the state level winding its way through the judicial system.
Stay tuned, Bookmakers Review will keep you updated as the judicial process unfolds.