Operations continue amid legal battle

Florida sports betting: pari-mutuels react, urge appeals court to reject Seminoles' motion for a stay

Magic City Casino, one of the plaintiffs in the case against Seminoles' compact.
2021-12-01
United States
Reading time 2:31 min

Pari-mutuels that opposed the Seminole Tribe sports betting agreement with the state of Florida have now fired back, accusing the Seminoles of “being disingenuous with the court.” The two pari-mutuel operators urged on Tuesday a federal appeals court to reject the tribe’s request for a stay of a ruling that ordered to halt sports wagering and a gambling expansion in the state.

The tribe first filed an emergency motion last week, asking the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to stay US District Judge Dabney Friedrich’s ruling. Friedrich concluded in her ruling that the tribe’s compact violated the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which mandates state-sanctioned gambling to occur on tribal land. 

The Florida-Seminoles agreement gave the tribe sole control over sports wagering for 30 years and called for the Seminoles to pay Florida at least $2.5 billion over the first five years. It allowed bettors to place wagers through mobile devices anywhere within the state as long as these were processed through computer servers on tribal property: judge Friedrich deemed this a “fiction.”

The three-judge panel of the appeals court gave the federal government and plaintiffs in the lawsuit -owners of Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County, and Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida- until noon Tuesday to respond to the Seminoles’ emergency motion, reports CBS12.

In a document filed Tuesday, the pari-mutuel operators claimed that the compact is “unambiguously unlawful,” and harshly criticized the Seminoles for continuing to conduct online sports betting after Friedrich’s ruling mandated halting operations and suspended the compact.

“The tribe has been disingenuous with the court over its alleged irreparable harm,” the response reads. “While telling the court that, absent an emergency stay, it ‘stands to lose’ tens of millions in revenue, it is telling its customers (over a week after the district court’s ruling) that its unlawful online sports gaming ‘remains fully open to all players’ and ‘there is no need to worry.’”

The Seminole Tribe argued that, should a stay not be granted, it would cause them “irreparable harm,” standing to lose “substantial revenue.” Pari-mutuels have said in their response that this harm is self-inflicted “as the unlawful nature of this gaming was known from the outset.” They also claim the tribe “rushed” to offer online sports betting, launching its app on Nov. 1, mere days before a Nov. 5 hearing in the case.

“Unless and until the Tribe commits that it will stop offering online sports gaming absent a stay, this Court should not credit the Tribe’s claims of irreparable harm,” the submitted response reads.

The response also argues against Seminoles’ claim that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the tribe has sovereign immunity: pari-mutuels claim the Seminoles' arguments for reversing the judgment “make no attempt to defend the legality of the compact,” but instead “seek to block judicial review entirely.”

The federal government, on behalf of U.S Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, has also submitted a response to the request for a motion of stay. The response states that, while the federal government does not agree with the tribe’s reasoning for a stay, it does “not oppose the tribe’s request” that a stay be granted.

As such, Haaland’s brief has been seen as offering little support to the tribe’s case: the federal government has advised that it is not joining in the tribe’s motion for stay. Moreover, Haaland’s lawyers conceded in Tuesday’s filing that the tribe has a thin case on appeal, reports Florida Phoenix.

The Seminole Tribe has now until Wednesday, Dec. 1, at noon to offer a reply. The tribe has so far spent $25 million on its sports betting app, and is expected to spend another $20 million by the end of the year, according to a court document filed last week.

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