Florida Sports Betting Update: Federal Judges Frustrated With US Government Response

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Posted: Nov 7, 2021 11:18 am

Last updated: November 7, 2021, 11:18 am.

The next few days will be crucial for those interested in the fate of Florida sports betting and the amended gaming contract between the Seminole tribe of Florida and the heads of state.

Sports betting in Florida
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, who was testified as a witness at a Senate Justice Confirmation hearing in 2017, was frustrated with how the federal government reacted to a lawsuit filed by parimutuel operators to block portions of the amended gambling contract that the Seminole Tribe of Florida and state officials approved earlier this year. The Parimutuel operators want to block parts of the compact that allow sports betting outside of the home country. (Image: US Senator Chris Coons)

On Friday, a District of Columbia federal judge gave Home Office attorneys and Home Secretary Deb Haaland until Tuesday to come up with a brief statement on why the agreement between the Seminoles and the state allows sports betting outside of tribal areas, including through online accounts , complies with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

During the nearly two-hour hearing, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich openly expressed her frustration at the responses – or lack thereof – received from Rebecca Ross, a US Justice Department attorney who represents the government.

Those frustrations started with the government failing to meet the meeting schedule set by the judge nearly two months ago. Towards the end of the hearing, the judge repeatedly asked whether the government interpreted online betting as being on indigenous land. When Ross began to speak of the “unique nature”, Friedrich interrupted her and said it was a simple yes or no question that she could not answer.

It’s hard not to sit here and think that the government’s only procedural strategy here is simply to hesitate, ”said Friedrich.

Friedrich said she will attempt to deliver her verdict by November 15, which the owners of Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room said they had been told Seminole Gaming would launch online sports betting. However, it would not guarantee this.

Seminoles launched mobile sports betting last week

Online sports betting began in Florida last week when Hard Rock Sportsbook initiated an “Early Access Launch,” according to its website.

The gambling contract that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Seminole Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. signed earlier this year and the state legislature subsequently approved legal sports betting in the state and gave the tribe exclusive control. In return, the state is expected to receive $ 2.5 billion from the tribe over the next five years and $ 6 billion by 2030.

In addition to retail sports betting at the Seminole and Hard Rock casinos, the Compact also enables the tribe to operate mobile sports betting across the state and partner with pari-mutuel operators across the state to install kiosks in their venues.

Magic City and Bonita Springs, both owned by Southwest Florida Enterprises, filed lawsuits against heads of state and federal officials in federal courts. A federal judge in Florida dismissed the case against Florida leaders last month.

Plaintiffs allege IGRA does not allow online betting and restrict gaming activities to tribal areas. Since sports betting is otherwise illegal in Florida, they run the risk of losing business because of the online application of the Seminole Tribe. They are demanding either a summary judgment on their behalf or an injunction preventing parts of the sports betting language from being effective until the court decides.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said within days of Seminole Gaming’s early launch, the grip on parimutuel operators had dropped 35 percent.

Outside of the legal system, a petition is pending led by FanDuel and DraftKings. This would allow Florida voters to legalize nationwide sports betting for commercial operators.

Long road to court, probably

The hearing on Friday showed the complexity of the case. In addition to the Parimutuel operators, Friedrich also heard from lawyers representing parties who want to block the entire contract – not just the sports betting portion that is permitted by the tribal country. So you’re looking for a different end result than the parimutuel operators.

Across the courtroom, the defendant is the federal government, but the Seminole tribe is also trying to intervene in the case. Tribal leaders have argued that the federal government’s interests are not theirs and they will be affected by the ultimate decision on this case.

Recall that in August the Home Office notified Seminole and Florida leaders that the Pact review could not be completed within the 45 day window. For this reason, federal law considers the pact approved as it complies with the IGRA.

Federal officials have raised some concerns about the parimutuel partnership aspect of the agreement, as well as another provision that gives the state jurisdiction over patronage disputes. However, regarding online betting, officials also said they would not read any restrictions into the 33-year-old IGRA that do not exist.

So we will probably find out by next Monday if Friedrich agrees that servers on tribal land are considered a wager on tribal land. Chances are, in that case your decision won’t be the last.


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