Judge Nixes Sunshine State Sports Betting Compact With Tribe

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7th Tribal Council Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida Marcellus William Osceola Jr. Photo by Zak BENNETT / AFP.

Earlier this month the Hard Rock mobile sports betting app went live in Florida courtesy of a 30-year compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. When the agreement was reached, Governor Ron DeSantis said, “This historic compact expands economic opportunity, tourism, and recreation, and bolsters the fiscal success of our state in one fell swoop for the benefit of all Floridians and Seminoles alike. Our agreement establishes the framework to generate billions in new revenue and untold waves of positive economic impact.”

But the operators who are not part of the Seminole Tribe were not very happy about the exclusive pact and were arming for a legal battle to open up the market to everyone. That legal shot was fired almost immediately and finally landed just three weeks after the mobile sports betting platform was rolled out in the Sunshine State. A federal judge ruled the compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe was not legal which grounded the app, at least for the time being.

Governor DeSantis said he had not studied the ruling but expects an appeal. “When we did the compact, I can only negotiate with the tribe,” DeSantis said. “I cannot do any gambling outside of that per the amendment that passed in 2018. … They wanted to do the sports, and so we said fine, and the reason why I said that was because it would probably pass on a referendum anyway. And then if a company gets it, the tribe gets it anyway. So, we felt that that made sense.”

Naturally, those who had the most to gain from the ruling praised the outcome with an eye towards offering mobile sports betting at some point in the future.

“Last night’s ruling was a victory for family-owned businesses like ours who pay their fair share in taxes and believe the free market should guide the business operations of gaming venues,” a spokesman for Magic City Casino said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Governor, Legislature, and the citizens of Florida to pave a path forward that ensures a fair gaming marketplace exists in Florida.”

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber spoke glowingly of the ruling, “This opinion vacating the FL Gaming Compact validates Floridians’ intent to rest gambling expansions solely with them and not the legislature or Governor, whose attempt to thwart the will of voters and sidestep a clear constitutional imperative hit a brick wall.”

The day after the compact was declared illegal, the Seminole Tribe filed a stay of the decision pending their appeal. Whether or not the compact will be reinstated is up for debate but the conventional wisdom is that the tribe will get a piece of the pie just not all of it.

Either way, the state of Florida can expect to reap huge dividends no matter who runs the mobile betting app(s). Nevertheless, the legal waters have yet to be fully navigated but when they are Bookmakers Review will keep you informed.