Florida Gaming Compact Codified Within Federal Register
Publication of the Florida gaming compact’s approval in the Federal Register on Wednesday formally codified the legality of sports betting in the Sunshine State.
Sports betting in Florida could start as soon as Oct. 15 at the Seminole Tribe’s casinos.
This expands Florida gambling, and with 22.4 million people (third-highest population), it becomes the largest state in America with legal sports betting.
So-called “hub and spoke” online gambling statewide with servers based on Indian land and several other parts of the compact already are, or are expected to face, legal challenges.
Last week, the 30-year gaming compact signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola, Jr., cleared its biggest regulatory hurdle when the Department of Interior let a 45-day review period lapse without taking any action.
Compact Guarantees State $500 Million For 5 Years
The compact allows for roulette and craps at the Seminole Tribe’s casinos in Florida. It guarantees the state $500 million annually for the next five years. Those payments will occur even if part or all of the online sports betting components are ruled illegal in the courts.
Multiple gaming legal experts saw doom for the compact at the federal level and confidentially predicted the Department of Interior would reject it.
Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law Bob Jarvis teaches a course in gambling law and has been a member of the Florida Bar for 31 yards. He told Gambling.com in the spring that the Compact would gain approval in both the state legislature and clear all its federal regulatory hurdles.
He called last week’s decision “a total win for the Tribe, by extension the state.”
Jarvis again reiterated his belief that none of the current lawsuits or any future ones will survive in the courts.
In 2018, Florida passed Amendment 3, which requires a voter referendum to approve any expansion of gambling in the state. However, the push for that amendment was funded in part by the Seminole Tribe. It also excludes any expansion of gaming on Indian lands.
Legal Cases Against Compact May Have Gotten Tougher
The DOI issued a 12-page letter detailing its decision to let the compact take effect.
In that letter, it flagged several arguments opponents of the deal have raised, including the one stating that the Tribe could have gotten a better deal from the state.
Jarvis believes that makes it tougher for legal opponents of the deal.
“They all basically say the Tribe was entitled to a better deal from the State, but DOI is not going to stand in the way of the Tribe's decision,” Jarvis said via email. “As for the issue that the plaintiffs/potential plaintiffs were hanging their hats on, namely, that the hub-and-spoke system is impermissible … the DOI completely rebuffed that the idea.”
Florida, unlike other states where that sort of betting was proposed but nullified, is different because the state specifically authorized/legalized the use of such a system, Jarvis said.
“The hill that the plaintiffs/potential plaintiffs have to climb just got a lot steeper, although it was never a hill that they were going to be able to surmount,” Jarvis said. “In a nutshell, then, DOI is saying: ‘If the State's happy, and the Tribe's happy, who are we (or anyone else) to squash it.’ “
Compact Expands Gambling Elsewhere
The compact also reaffirms the legal status of daily fantasy sports gaming. It also allows for new casinos to be built and opened on tribal lands and at least 15 miles from current sites.
Pari-mutuel license holders are now allowed to shutter live and/or remote racing and focus fully on poker rooms and other casino games – in addition to sports betting, if they can work out a deal with the Tribe.
The Tribe has long argued that the compact not only will deliver revenue to the state, but will provide jobs.
Opponents of the compact argue that it is unfair to current pari-mutuel license holders because the Tribe will take 40% of their sports betting revenue. They also argue that the deal violates Amendment 3 and shuts out sports betting entities like DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook and BetMGM.
Those sportsbooks are backing a proposed 2022 voter amendment that would allow books legally licensed in at least 10 states for one year to engage in online sports wagering in Florida.
Others want no new gambling in the state. Period.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Department of Interior took no action on the compact between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” No Casinos President John Sowinski said in a written statement when the Department of Interior allowed it to go into effect.
His organization intends to sue to stop the compact.
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