Amid legal disputes faced by Seminoles

Florida Gov. names first three members of Gaming Control Commission, upcoming regulator

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
United States
Reading time 2 min

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced the first three members of a new gaming panel called the Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC), which is set to oversee gaming in the state starting this year.

The three appointees include Julie Imanuel Brown, Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary; Michael Yaworksy, Office of Insurance Regulation Chief of Staff; and former law enforcement officer Charles Drago. The appointees await approval by the state Senate.

The panel was outlined in legislation passed by the Senate during the same session in which lawmakers in the state ratified the gaming compact between Florida and the Seminoles. The panel is set to have a total of five members.

The FGCC’s role involves regulatory authority over tribal gaming compacts, as well as overseeing pari-mutuel operators, cardrooms, slot parlors and “other forms of gaming allowed by the state constitution,” with the exception of the Florida Lottery.

According to the Office of the Attorney General, the commission is required “to do a number of tasks'' by July 1, 2022, including ensuring state laws are not interpreted to expand gaming, and referring criminal violations of state gaming laws to the appropriate state attorney or to the Office of Statewide Prosecution. It is also tasked with reviewing any matter within the scope of jurisdiction of the Department of Business Services' Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering.

The gaming panel would be responsible for overseeing the sports betting market in Florida, which has now been put on hold after the amended gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state was found in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by a Federal Judge.

After the tribe’s request for a stay was denied, the Seminoles were forced to suspend their mobile sports betting app, the Hard Rock Sportsbook. The compact between tribe and state relied on a “hub-and-spoke” model for its sports betting plan, which raised protests from different parties.

The model allowed bettors to place online wagers on sports events anywhere within Florida as long as the bets were processed through computer servers on tribal property. While the tribe argues this constituted betting on tribal land, it was deemed “a fiction” by a federal district court judge who argued it violated federal Indian gaming law.

Debate on Florida sports betting is expected to initiate once again with the next legislative session, to begin on January 11. The Seminole tribe could negotiate a new compact with the state allowing gaming solely on Indian lands, or Florida could approve a citizens’ initiative to allow online sports betting.

Online sportsbooks, including giants FanDuel and DraftKings, are seeking to legalize betting through a constitutional amendment via the November 2022 ballot, beyond the now-rejected compact with the Seminole Tribe, which attempted to give a monopoly on the market to the tribal nation. The deadline for submitting a total of 891,589 valid petition signatures to the state is February 1.

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