Federal Government Appealing Seminole Gaming Compact Decision

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino entrance


The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) filed a notice last week that they intend to appeal a previous judicial ruling that shut down the Seminole Gaming Compact, the News Service of Florida reported Monday. The notice did not clarify details of the arguments the DOI plans to make.

The Seminole Gaming Compact was a multi-billion-dollar agreement between the tribe and the State of Florida where the state recognized the tribe as the sole controller of sports betting in the state. In turn, the state would net billions in revenue from tribal payments.

One of the developments of the agreement was the release of a sportsbook mobile app made available by the tribe. Sports bettors would be able to download the app and place bets.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled the compact to be void saying it violated a federal rule requiring the sports bettor to be on tribal land when the bet was placed. Her argument was that the app provides a way for bets to be placed anywhere, not specific to tribal land.

Tribal attorneys argued they did not have to worry about the federal rule because the servers of the app were on tribal land.

However, Friedrich ruled that “This court cannot accept that fiction” and Haaland was in error for allowing the compact to take effect.

“Because the compact allows patrons to wager throughout Florida, including at locations that are not Indian lands, the compact violates IGRA’s ‘Indian lands’ requirement,” the ruling said.

The DOI, in November, released a report before Friedrich’s ruling defending the compact saying it did not violate the federal rule.

“Federal defendants contend that for federal law purposes, and consistent with federal law, the online sports betting provisions in the compact reflect a permissible hybrid approach wherein gaming activity that occurs off of the tribe’s Indian lands is authorized under state law, and gaming activity that occurs on Indian lands is authorized by IGRA pursuant to the compact,” the court document said.

The legal challenge to the compact came from the owners of Magic City Casinos and Bonita Springs Poker Room who have also claimed the compact violates state law for expanding gambling outside of a voter approved constitutional amendment in 2018.

The Seminole Tribe has a separate appeal filed with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington D.C., and that appeal is still pending.

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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.
Photo “Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino entrance” by Valerie CC 2.0.



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