FL Parimutuel Owner Files Lawsuit Against New Gaming Compact

Miami Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room are some of Florida’s oldest parimutuel owners. He has now filed a federal lawsuit against the State alleging that the State’s new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe is a violation of the country’s laws. The owner filed his lawsuit at Northern Florida’s US District Court on Friday 2nd July. He claims that the new gaming compact will allow sports betting outside their tribe lands for the Seminole, which violates the provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Governor DeSantis approved Florida’s new gaming compact in May to promise that the Seminole Tribe would contribute $500 million every year to the State Treasury from expanding their functions. 

Florida’s new gaming compact is supposed to make online sports betting legal for all State residents above the age of 21. But the parimutuel owner who has filed the lawsuit claims that he is not against the gaming compact as a whole. Instead, his objection is only for the expansion of online sports betting by tribes outside tribal areas. He believes this will severely hamper other parimutuels’ ability to compete with the tribal gaming operators. 

The plaintiff has raised the issue that the new gaming compact will expand online sports betting on off-reservation areas by placing the servers for the online service within the tribal lands. The compact will ‘deem’ the service to be operating out of tribal lands itself. But the parimutuel owner alleges that this interpretation violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that will overturn years of precedent of gaming restricted to Indian reservations.  The plaintiff has also alleged that the compact violates the Wire Act of 1961 and the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. But the spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe has confirmed that their gaming compact does not legally violate any state or federal laws. 

The Seminole gaming compact is now awaiting approval from the US Department of Interiors. But this new lawsuit can become an obstacle in its passing. In addition, a constitutional amendment is suggested for the 2022 ballot, which may allow sports betting from mobile phones in all parimutuels and sports stadiums of the country. This is another threat to the Seminole Compact. FL legislators are not sure about the future of the gaming compact. Some believe that the court could just remove the sports betting part of the compact and let the rest pass. In that case, the annual state revenue would decrease by $100 million. 

The governor negotiated the agreement with the tribe, and in addition to worries about its constitutionality, several conservative legislature members who had previously seen sports betting as a hazardous extension of gaming withheld their opposition. The governor and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nez actively campaigned for the legislation, as the governor threatened to veto hundreds of legislative projects in the $110 billion budget. The agreement was adopted by the House on a 97-17 vote, and the Senate on a 38-1 vote.

According to the lawsuit, when Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, it determined that “Indian tribes have the exclusive right to regulate gaming activity on Indian lands if the gaming activity is not specifically prohibited by federal law and is conducted within a state that does not, as a matter of criminal law and public policy, prohibit such gaming activity.” According to the complaint, the compact is “an effort to circumvent this clear prohibition in the state Constitution” by allowing “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 plaintiff’s legal representatives are very confident about their case as they believe that the new compact is just based on ‘legal fiction’ as it will allow sports betting outside tribe lands in a state where sports betting is still not legal. The decision now rests in the hands of the court whether they approve or reject this legal fiction. 

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