After Monday's decision

Florida: Seminoles to appeal sports betting federal ruling, continue operations despite halt order

Marcellus W. Osceola, Jr., chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Reading time 2:16 min

Despite a federal court decision to halt sports betting and a planned gaming expansion indefinitely in Florida, the Seminole Tribe is now continuing to collect online wagers for its app. Moreover, the tribal nation moved on Tuesday to appeal the blocking of the deal.

The Seminoles have continued their operations despite federal district court judge Dabney L. Friedrich ruling on Monday that the compact between the tribe and the state violates federal Indian gaming law. The agreement called for the Seminoles to pay the state at least $2.5 billion over the first five years in exchange for sole control over sports wagering in Florida, plus the option to add roulette and craps to its operations.

The compact, signed earlier this year by Gov. Ron DeSantis, allowed bettors to place wagers anywhere in the state through mobile devices, as long as these were processed through computer servers on tribal property. The question at hand was whether this constitutes betting on tribal land, which Friedrich opposed, calling it “fiction”.

A day after Friedrich’s ruling, the tribe filed a notice of appeal and a “motion for stay pending appeal,” asking the judge to tell them within the next 24 hours if she is going to put a hold on her own ruling, reports Miami Herald. The tribe has also continued to collect wagers, operations it first launched on November 1.

“The tribe’s online sports betting authorized by the compact is now in operation, and is generating millions in revenue per week,’’ said Marcellus W. Osceola, chairman of the tribe, in the statement filed with the court. “The tribe is using these funds to pay back the development costs for its online sportsbook, make revenue-sharing payments to the state and fund important tribal programs.”

In the motion for a stay, lawyers with the tribe argue that the ruling will cause “irreparable harm” to the Seminoles’ sovereignty and economic interest “if a stay is not issued” pending resolution of the legal issues posed on the tribe’s appeal. Lawyers claim the tribe would lose “substantial revenue” should sports betting operations be ceased.

The statement to the court further says the tribe has already made two $37.5 million revenue-sharing payments to Florida, as well as having hired employees and purchased equipment in preparation for the launch of craps and roulette, plus $25 million spent to develop the tribe’s online sportsbook.

Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke about the issue in a news conference held early Tuesday, in which he said he expected an appeal. Once Friedrich rules on the motion for a stay, the tribe can move forward and appeal the ruling.

On Monday, Friedrich ordered Florida to “reinstate the Tribe’s prior gaming compact,” which took effect in 2010. She further suggested the governor and the Seminoles agree on “a new compact” which could allow online gaming “solely on Indian lands.” Alternatively, Florida citizens may authorize betting across the state “through a citizens’ initiative.”

Following the ruling, Florida could now pass new legislation in its 2022 legislative session, or count on a November 2022 ballot initiative. Sports betting giants FanDuel and DraftKings have already launched a petition to get sports wagering approved by voters next year. In either case, online sports betting will most likely have to wait until 2023 to launch in the state.

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