Judge Rules Florida Sports Betting App Violates Federal Law

Judge Rules Florida Sports Betting App Violates Federal Law
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A U.S. district judge on Monday ruled that a compact under which the Seminole Tribe in Florida operates an online sports betting app for use anywhere in the state “violates” the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Opponents of the app asserted that its usage violates the act restricting gambling to tribal land.

Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington, D.C., wrote that her 25-page Memorandum Opinion filed Monday “does not foreclose other avenues for authorizing online sports betting in Florida.”

“The State and the Tribe may agree to a new compact … that allows online gaming solely on Indian lands,” the judge wrote. “Because the most recent compact is no longer in effect, continuing to offer online sports betting would violate federal law.”

She added, “Alternatively, Florida citizens may authorize such betting across their state through a citizens’ initiative.”

Friedrich wrote that the secretary of U.S. Department of the Interior might not “approve future compacts that authorize conduct outside IGRA’s scope. And IGRA, as the Supreme Court explained in Bay Mills, authorizes gaming ‘on Indian lands, and nowhere else.’ ”

Hard Rock Sportsbook Launched

On Nov. 1, the Seminole Tribe, without advance notice or fanfare, launched its Hard Rock Sportsbook app, allowing bettors, using devices such as smartphones, to wager on live events from anywhere in the state.

A pair of lawsuits sought stop the tribe from having exclusive rights to mobile sports betting in Florida.

Under the current “hub-and-spoke” system, the computer servers that process online sports bets are on tribal land, though bettors can be in their homes or anywhere else in the state. Bets could be placed on professional and college sports and other live events, including NASCAR races.

Florida’s West Flagler Associates sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and Secretary Deb Haaland over the compact, saying it violates federal law and hurts their businesses. The company owns Magic City Casino west of downtown Miami and the Bonita Springs Poker Room on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

A separate lawsuit contends the compact is illegal under a state amendment prohibiting gambling expansion in Florida without 60% voter approval.

PAC Raises Millions

As this occurs, a political action committee seeks a constitutional amendment to legalize sports wagering at professional sports arenas and other sites in Florida.

The PAC has received $10 million each from sports betting operators DraftKings and FanDuel. The measure will be on the November 2022 ballot if enough signatures are collected and the Florida Supreme Court approves the wording.

State, Tribe Sign Compact

Last spring, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the compact with Seminole Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. State legislators approved the compact during a special session in May. It later received federal approval.

The compact required the tribe to market sports betting with pari-mutuels that would receive 60% of the profits.

Earlier this month, the tribe announced it had contracted with five pari-mutuals: the Palm Beach Kennel Club (PBKC), Hialeah Park Casino, Ocala Gainesville Poker and Ocala Breeder’s Sales Co., Tampa Bay Downs and TGT Poker and Racebook.