Judge Sides with Florida Seminole Tribe in Florida

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

The ownership group of the Magic City Casino in Miami and the Bonita Springs Poker Room filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of the compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida giving them sports betting rights throughout Florida via online betting. Magic City Casino contends that allowing this deal to consummate would negatively impact their pari-mutuel revenue at both locations.

In other words, why schlep to a brick-and-mortar establishment to place a wager when you can do it from the palm of your hand on your mobile device at the location of your convenience? Of course, the counterargument could be made that people who go to a casino or poker room are doing so for a myriad of reasons and not necessarily to bet on sports, although that could be a byproduct of their visit after they get done at the table games, slots, or poker tables.

Round One

Well, the state and the Seminole Tribe won this first round although an appeal is likely. Naturally, the state was dragged into this lawsuit due to it being a pact with Seminole Tribe and attorneys on behalf of Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Julie Brown asked that the suit be tossed because the casino group operating the pari-mutuels could not demonstrate their business would be adversely affected.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor acknowledged that the pari-mutuel group would not be pleased with the agreement between the tribe and the state but in a 20-page ruling sided with the state’s argument.

“The pari-mutuels lack standing to sue the governor or the secretary because their actions are not fairly traceable to any alleged harm. In addition, the requested declaratory and injunctive relief would provide no legal or practical redress to the pari-mutuels’ injuries,” Winsor wrote.

The judge found that there was no harm and that undoing the deal would not remedy their cause of action. “They argue that a declaratory judgment would have a cascading effect: a declaration against the state officials that the online sports-betting provisions are illegal would ‘sever’ those provisions from the compact ‘automatically,’ which would then prohibit the tribe from offering online sports betting, which would, in turn, prevent the pari-mutuels’ impending economic harm,” Winsor continued.

Money-Making Compact

The compact between the Seminole tribe and the state of Florida was agreed to in April of this year and ratified by lawmakers the following month. It will allow the tribe to offer online sports betting and in turn pay what is expected to be billions of dollars to the state as part of their agreement.

“This is an important first legal victory for the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe and we look forward to future legal decisions in our favor,” Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the tribe, said in an email Monday evening.

The compact specifically states that sports wagers made in Florida “using a mobile app or other electronic devices, shall be deemed to be exclusively conducted by the tribe.” As of now the deal has been upheld and deemed constitutional but this might not be over as the Magic City Casino group has yet to divulge its next move.