Florida’s sports betting plan with Seminole Tribe hit with legal challenge

Katie R. Ochoa

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Pointing to a “legal fiction,” two pari-mutuel facilities have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a freshly accepted program for the Seminole Tribe to work athletics betting in Florida.

House owners of Magic Metropolis On line casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Place in Southwest Florida filed the lawsuit Friday contending that a sports-betting program that lawmakers passed in May possibly violates federal guidelines. Lawmakers backed the system as portion of a gambling “compact” negotiated this spring by Gov. Ron DeSantis and tribal leaders.

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Less than the offer, the Seminoles would serve as the hub for sporting activities betting, which in the earlier has been unlawful in Florida. Gamblers through the point out could place bets on the internet, with the bets run via pc servers on tribal residence.

But the 67-site lawsuit contends, in element, that a legislation regarded as the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not authorize bets to be placed from off tribal lands. Also, the lawsuit argues that the composition of the system is an attempt to get about a 2018 point out constitutional modification that involves voter acceptance of gambling expansions.

“In an energy to circumvent this apparent prohibition in the point out Constitution, the 2021 compact and employing regulation supply that a human being sitting on her poolside lounge chair or his sofa at residence positioning a athletics guess through the tribe is ‘deemed’ not to be inserting a guess that is normally illegal in the state,” the lawsuit mentioned. “The 2021 compact unlawfully deems the guess to be positioned on the tribe’s reservation, in which the servers will be found. Even so, this is practically nothing a lot more than a authorized fiction belied by the truth that sports activities betting is still having place outside the house the tribe’s reservations in a condition where sports activities betting stays illegal.”

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Athletics betting was the maximum-profile component of the compact that DeSantis and tribal leaders announced in April. The compact, which lawmakers overwhelmingly permitted throughout a special legislative session, contains the tribe shelling out $2.5 billion to the state above the first five years in exchange for having management about on-line sports betting. The tribe also will get other positive aspects, these types of as getting able to supply craps and roulette at its casinos.

The sports activities-betting element of the offer still demands acceptance from the U.S. Division of the Interior, which oversees tribal gaming. Lawmakers acknowledged in May that they anticipated legal problems.

“Obviously, having this type of agreement, you’re navigating kind of the icebergs of authorized hurdles,” Home Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, informed reporters in May possibly.

Sprowls, an lawyer, explained it was an “open question” irrespective of whether a authorized obstacle would be prosperous.

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“You know, acceptable individuals disagree. Some folks have seemed at it and claimed, ‘Hey, I never feel it is gonna make it.’ I’ve looked at it. I feel it will. The truth is which is going to be solved by a courtroom,” he added.

Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming, also acknowledged in an job interview very last thirty day period with The Information Assistance of Florida that he anticipated legal troubles. But he pointed to gains of the program for the condition.

“Our challenge is that if you search at the illegal athletics betting in online gaming websites, there is billions of bucks that’s transpiring on an once-a-year foundation presently from the citizens of the condition of Florida,” Allen explained in the job interview. “So component of our message to the management of the state was it’s occurring anyway. It is not controlled. Several, numerous occasions these web sites are just a magnet for offshore exercise that may or may not include income laundering and numerous other illegal things to do. So why not provide the product, since clearly the citizens have instructed us they want it.”

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Less than the plan, the tribe would deal with pari-mutuel facilities to assist sector athletics betting. The lawsuit mentioned that would incorporate supplying kiosks to location bets at pari-mutuel amenities.

But the lawsuit, submitted by lawyers from the Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney agency, argues that pari-mutuels would be place at a drawback if the approach goes ahead, It mentioned “pari-mutuels that are not able to, or opt for not to, enter into a advertising arrangement with the tribe are entirely shut out of any opportunity to provide sporting activities betting.”

“Accordingly, the pari-mutuels will not only drop the stroll-in site visitors on which their business types are centered, which will finally influence their earnings from slot devices, card rooms, and pari-mutuel wagering, as properly as the ancillary enjoyment and dining options presented to patrons of their services — but they are also staying denied the option to compete on a amount enjoying area with the tribe,” reported the lawsuit, initial documented Monday by the Miami Herald.

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The Magic Town and Bonita Springs amenities are headed by the Havenick relatives, longtime players in the state’s pari-mutuel business. The lawsuit, which seeks an injunction, also contends the sporting activities-betting approach violates federal guidelines recognized as the Wire Act of 1961 and the Illegal World wide web Gaming Enforcement Act.

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