Federal judge Spikes Florida Sports Paris throws gambling deal with Seminole


“Where a federal law allows activity only in specific places, the parties cannot escape this limitation by ‘considering’ their activity to occur where, in fact, it does not.” , wrote the judge.

As Tom Brady threw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to another victory Monday night, a federal judge’s ruling threw sports betting in Florida into limbo.

The Nov. 22 decision of Dabney Friedrich, a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia, overturned the approval of a gambling agreement between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe.

Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole announced the new gambling contract in April, which granted the tribe the right to conduct (and almost entirely control) in-person and online sports betting in the state, among others.

After a “suspected” approval from the US Department of the Interior in August, the tribe began taking online bets in early November through their Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile app.

But lawsuits have been filed by opponents of the pact and its sports betting provisions, including one filed in federal court in DC shortly after Home Department approval by the owners of Magic City casino. Miami (West Flagler Associates) and Bonita Springs poker room. (Bonita-Fort Myers Company).

The companies (both indirectly controlled by the Havenick family) have only challenged the online sports betting part of the pact and have asked the court to either overturn “the deemed approval” of the deal or to put it on hold until what the legal process takes place.

Judge Friedrich ruled that the agreement violated key provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA) – the law that “creates a framework to regulate gambling activities on Indian lands” – by authorizing gambling. chance on and off these lands.

This means that the Home Department had a duty to reject the pact, Friedrich wrote. The judge added that the “appropriate remedy” for the two casino-owner plaintiffs was to reverse the federal government’s approval of the entire pact, including the non-sports betting sections that allow additional gambling facilities and fantastic contests.

The remedy has the “practical effect” of bringing gambling in Florida back to the previous state-Seminole agreement, which went into effect in 2010 and could remain in effect until 2030, the judge said. With the new deal now sunk, continuing to offer sports betting online would violate federal law, she added.

“This decision does not preclude other avenues for authorizing online sports betting in Florida,” Friedrich wrote. “The state and the tribe can agree to a new pact, with the [Secretary of the Interior’s] approval, which allows online gambling only on Indian lands. Alternatively, Florida citizens can authorize such betting in their state through a citizens’ initiative. What the secretary cannot do, however, is approve future covenants that allow conduct outside the scope of the IGRA.

And now?

Monday’s decision now injects a massive dose of uncertainty into the future of sports betting in the Sunshine State. Florida was briefly the most populous state in the United States with legal sports betting, but that bet was ruled out in its current form and may have to stop.

While legal challenges to the pact with Seminole, owner of Hard Rock, were expected and received, the tribe still launched their online bookie in Florida with the outcome of these unresolved legal challenges. The Seminole also owns and operates several casinos in the state, whose incorporation requires voter approval to expand casino gaming, but with an exclusion for IGRA-related agreements.

What happens next is likely an appeal and more legal fights between supporters and opponents of the Gaming Pact. Judge Friedrich’s ruling also concerned a separate legal challenge to the Gaming Pact (and a third challenge in Florida has already been dismissed), but since these plaintiffs were seeking the same remedy, their request was dismissed as moot by the judge.

And as the legal drama continues to unfold, a political effort is underway to allow sports betting across Florida through a citizens’ initiative.

The effort is supported by DraftKings Inc. and FanDuel Group and aims to put a sports betting-related issue on the November 2022 ballot in Florida. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow other sports betting to operate in the state regardless of tribe.

The now unapproved deal reached by DeSantis and the Seminole was ratified by the Florida legislature in a special session in May. The deal allowed Seminole to offer in-person and online sports betting, as well as table games such as craps at its casinos, among others, in return for payments to the state, including at least $ 2.5 billion. dollars over five years.

While the 30-year pact required federal approval, the US Department of the Interior said in August that it neither approved nor disapproved of the agreement. This meant it was deemed approved “to the extent that it complied” with federal law, wrote Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland.

Bets must be “exclusively by and through” sports betting which is operated by Seminole or its approved management subcontractor, the gaming contract states.

All sports betting must also be “deemed” exclusively made by the tribe, even when the bets are made with a phone or computer that is not on their lands. The same goes for betting via pari-mutuels, such as racetracks, with which the Seminole was supposed to enter into marketing partnerships in exchange for up to 40% of the profits. The tribe said on Oct. 28 that it had already made marketing deals with five pari-mutuels.

“The tribe and state refer to this arrangement as a ‘hub and spoke’ model, where the tribe’s servers are the hub, and the spokes are the mobile devices and facilities of pari-mutuel licensees. under contract where the bets come from, ”the Interior Ministry letter said.

Justice Friedrich wrote that the language of the pact essentially allows sports betting throughout Florida.

“And because the state has not entered into a similar agreement with any other entity, the Compact grants the tribe a monopoly on both all online betting and all betting on major sporting events,” he said. she added.

The Bonita Springs-Magic City court challenge in DC was filed in August. The lawsuit claimed that the IGRA does not allow the Seminole to offer online sports betting to anyone located anywhere in the state without having to set foot on tribal land.

“This effort to use an IGRA agreement to confer such a statewide gambling monopoly on an Indian tribe is unprecedented and illegal,” a September filing of the plaintiffs said.

Friedrich agreed that the sports betting model adopted by the state and Seminole violates federal law.

The IGRA allows sports betting on tribal lands, but the pact’s attempt to extend it beyond those lands with its tongue fell flat with the judge.

“Although the Compact judges[s]”All sports betting must take place at the location of the tribe’s ‘sports book’ (s) and the supporting servers … this Court cannot accept this fiction,” the judge wrote. “When a federal law allows activity only in specific places, the parties cannot escape this limitation by ‘assuming’ that their activity is taking place where, in fact, it is not. “


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