According to a report from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper, the southern state inked a new 30-year gaming compact with the federally-recognized tribe in May that was to have legalized online sports wagering so long as any bets were processed through servers located on aboriginal lands. This deal approved by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (pictured) was to have purportedly also allowed local parimutuel operators to market such mobile-friendly sportsbetting services on behalf of the Seminole Tribe of Florida in exchange for a 40% share of any associated profits.
However, a number of Florida’s existing commercial casino and poker room operators reportedly objected to the legalization of sportsbetting on grounds that it could cost them millions of dollars in revenues and potentially cause them to go out of business. One these opponents, West Flagler Associates Limited, purportedly even went so far as to file a federal lawsuit against United States Interior Secretary Deb Haaland arguing that the new gaming compact violated the tenets of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and the Interstate Wire Act while similarly breaching the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) alongside subsequent judicial interpretations.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that the operator behind Miami’s Magic City Casino has now got its way after Judge Dabney Friedrich from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with its contention and ordered the state to immediately cease any plans to launch online sportsbetting under the terms of the new gaming compact. This decision purportedly represents a big setback for the state as it had hoped legalized sports wagering would help it to bring in at least $2.5 billion in revenues over the course of the next five years.
Christian Ulvert serves as a spokesperson for West Flagler Associates Limited and he reportedly told the newspaper that Judge Friedrich, who was appointed to her current post by President Donald Trump in 2017, found that federal law does not authorize betting that occurs off of tribal lands. He declared that the ‘hub-and-spokes’ system proposed by Florida’s envisioned gaming compact was simply an attempt to create a ‘legal loophole’ that would have had a ‘significant and potentially devastating impact’ on gambling operations at locations such as Magic City Casino.
Ulvert reportedly told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune…
“Last night’s ruling was a victory for family-owned businesses like ours who pay their fair share in taxes and believe the free market should guide the business operations of gaming venues. The judge clearly understood the blatant violation of IGRA as her ruling demonstrates.”
For his part and DeSantis reportedly proclaimed that he had ‘anticipated that this could happen’ and now expects the federal government to appeal Judge Friedrich’s ruling as the state was not officially named as a defendant. Nevertheless, the 43-year-old Republican declined to indicate whether his administration will engage in any other routes towards bringing online sportsbetting to ‘The Sunshine State’ or if he will throw his weight behind a trio of measures already in the works including a campaign to bring the matter before voters via a November of 2022 referendum.
Reportedly read a statement from DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw…
“We are reviewing the court’s perplexing ruling, which certainly contains appealable issues. Because neither the Seminole Tribe of Florida nor the state of Florida are parties to the case, it is unclear what if any immediate impact the ruling has in Florida. We look forward to working with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to ensure the future success of the compact.”