Seminole Gaming Compact Facing Legal Challenges

 

The newly minted Seminole gaming compact between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida is already facing a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

The lawsuit says the Seminole Tribe’s claim to being the sports-betting hub, which is still illegal in Florida, creates complications due to gamblers being able to place bets on Seminole servers but while not being on tribal land.

The lawsuit, filed by the owners of Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room, cite the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which prevents bets from being placed off tribal land.

They are also contending a 2018 constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters, which requires voter approval for gambling expansion, illegally skirts around the statute.

The lawsuit addresses the “legal fiction” within the gaming compact.

“In an effort to circumvent this clear prohibition in the state Constitution, the 2021 compact and implementing law provide that a person sitting on her poolside lounge chair or his couch at home placing a sports bet through the tribe is ‘deemed’ not to be placing a bet that is otherwise illegal in the state. The 2021 compact unlawfully deems the bet to be placed on the tribe’s reservation, where the servers will be located. However, this is nothing more than a legal fiction belied by the fact that sports betting is still taking place outside the tribe’s reservations in a state where sports betting remains illegal.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the compact after a special legislative session in May. The state is projected to take in $2.5 billion in revenue and nearly $6 billion through 2030.

A spokesman for Seminole Gaming, Gary Bitner, has said the compact “fully complies with the law.”

“The Gaming Compact fully complies with the law and is supported by Floridians 3-1,’’ he said. “It guarantees $2.5 billion in revenue sharing in its first five years, the largest commitment by any gaming company in U.S. history.”

The compact still needs federal approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior, but House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-65) said in May legal challenges are expected.

“Obviously, having this kind of agreement, you’re navigating kind of the icebergs of legal hurdles,” said Sprowls. “You know, reasonable people disagree. Some people have looked at it and said, ‘Hey, I don’t think it’s gonna make it.’ I’ve looked at it. I think it will. The reality is that’s going to be resolved by a court.”

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at the Florida Capital Star and the Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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