Florida Tribe Seeks to Block Court Decision Halting Mobile Sports Betting

Florida Tribe Seeks to Block Court Decision Halting Mobile Sports Betting
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The Seminole Tribe of Florida is seeking a stay of a federal judge’s ruling that says the tribe’s Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile sports wagering app is illegal.

The Ruling

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich last week ruled the Seminole Hard Rock Sportsbook app violates federal law by allowing betters to use their smartphones to wager from anywhere in the state, rather than just on tribal land. A federal rule requires bettors to be physically on tribal property when wagering, the judge stated.

The Seminole Hard Rock Sportsbook, the only authorized mobile-betting app in the state, was launched without fanfare on Nov. 1.

Non-tribal pari-mutuels and others had filed lawsuits to stop the tribe from gaining exclusive rights to mobile sports betting in Florida. These lawsuits resulted in the judge’s Nov. 22 ruling.

Stay Rejected

Late Wednesday, the judge rejected the tribe’s request for a stay, which would allow the app to remain in operation, at least temporarily.

The tribe argued it would lose money used for tribal programs if the sports betting app was shut down in Florida. In denying the request, the judge said the tribe had not proven a shutdown would result in financial hardship.

The next day, on Thanksgiving, the tribe’s attorneys filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The appeals court has given attorneys for non-tribal pari-mutuels until noon on Tuesday to respond to the emergency motion. The U.S. Department of the Interior also has until Tuesday to respond.

The Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gaming matters, earlier this year signed off on the multibillion-dollar gambling compact between the state and Seminole Tribe.

Computer Servers Located on Tribal Land

Friedrich, appointed in 2017 by former President Donald Trump, said a prior Supreme Court decision authorizes tribal gaming “on Indian lands, and nowhere else.”

The judge wrote that it is fiction to claim that all Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile betting has occurred on tribal land just because that’s where the computer servers are located to process the bets.

Even after the judge’s ruling last week, however, the app continued to accept bets at least until Thanksgiving Day, according to published reports.

The judge’s decision also blocks the tribe from adding Las Vegas-style roulette and craps at its Hard Rock casinos in Broward and Hillsborough counties.

Sports Betting Options Still Available in Florida

In a 25-page memorandum opinion last week, Friedrich wrote that her decision “does not foreclose other avenues” for authorizing online sports betting in Florida.

The Washington, D.C-based judge wrote that the state and tribe might agree to a new compact allowing online sports betting, but only on tribal lands.

The judge also wrote that Florida residents can still create a “citizens’ initiative” to authorize mobile sports betting across the state.

A political action committee already is seeking a constitutional amendment to legalize sports wagering across the state. The PAC has received $10 million each from publicly traded online bookmakers DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.

The measure will be on the November 2022 ballot if enough signatures are collected and the Florida Supreme Court approves the wording.

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