The Seminole Tribe of Florida’s new gambling compact signed by Governor Ron DeSantis is under attack. Lawsuits have been filed in federal court in Tallahassee and in Washington D.C. This week, the tribe has decided to fight back and filed documents within the United States District Court in D.C., trying to stop a lawsuit filed by pari-mutuel operators.
In the D.C. case, the pari-mutuel facilities argue that the decision by the Department of Interior to approve the 30-year deal is in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The lawsuit names United States Interior Secretary Deb Haaland as a defendant and targets the compact’s mobile sports betting section that allows wagers off tribal lands.
Details of the Latest Filing and Lawsuits Against the Tribe
Yesterday, the Seminole Tribe filed documents that argue their case. The tribe says that they are federally designated and are a sovereign nation. Calling themselves an indispensable party, the tribe says that since they have sovereignty, the case must be dismissed.
The tribe is fighting a federal case filed by West Flagler Associates, the owner of Bonita Springs Poker Room and Magic City Casino in Florida. The company first filed in Tallahassee in early July, naming Governor Ron DeSantis as a defendant. Also listed was Julie Imanuel Brown, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary.
In this case, the pari-mutuel operator calls for an injunction to stop the gambling laws approved in May 2021 from being adopted. Based on the law, the Tribe is allowed to decide if pari-mutuels will be able to offer sports betting services.
The second lawsuit was filed in mid-August in D.C., calling out the approval of the compact by Bryan Newland of the Interior Department Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Not Approved, but Allowed
At the time, Newland did not approve the compact but allowed it to go through by default once the 45-day review period was over. When the compact moved forward, Newland wrote that he was concerned about certain provisions of the company and felt that the concerns would lead to court filings in the future.
The main point of contention within the new compact is the element where the tribe is allowed to offer online sports betting in the state. The tribe would place servers for online betting on tribal lands, but players would have access to services across the state.
Opponents like West Flagler Associates feel that this element is in violation of several laws. For the Seminole Tribe, they see it as valid since the servers that the bets go through will be on their land. It remains to be seen what will happen but with the Tribe now fighting back, it could be a long process before a final decision is made.