Set to start Oct. 15

Magic City Casino urges federal government to block sports betting in Florida via lawsuit

Magic City Casino is suing the federal government in an effort to block sports betting.
2021-09-23
United States
Reading time 2:32 min
Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room in Florida filed a motion to block the implementation of online sports betting scheduled to begin later this year, alleging it violates federal law and state constitution by allowing wagering outside of tribal lands. Moreover, both parties allege that the agreement between the Seminoles and the state gives the tribe a monopoly over betting operations, discriminating in favor of them.

Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room in Florida are suing the federal government in an effort to block sports betting in the state. The pari-mutuels filed the motion in federal district court in Washington, late Tuesday, on the grounds that the tribal compact permitting betting violates federal law and the state constitution.

The lawsuit asks a judge to block implementation of online sports betting under the Florida tribal gaming compact scheduled to begin later this year, reports Miami Herald. The motion, against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, asks a court to enjoin the sports-betting portion of the state’s compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The revised compact gives the tribe a monopoly over sports betting in Florida, by allowing wagers to through an internet server on tribal land. The plaintiffs allege that, although the Department of the Interior allowed the compact to take effect, the court should reverse that decision, blocking implementation until a legal sports-betting compact is established for the state, further says the previously cited news source.

The deal, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and approved by the state’s legislature, establishes that anyone in Florida over age 21 can start placing wagers on sporting events via the internet or web applications from anywhere in the state beginning on October 15.

All transactions are set to go through servers located on tribal grounds in a “hub and spoke” model intended to bypass both federal and state law, which both deem sports betting in the state illegal unless authorized in Florida law.

It is being alleged that offering statewide online sports betting through servers on tribal lands cannot be considered as betting on tribal lands, which is arguably a violation of the state constitution, as any expansion beyond tribal lands must be approved via a referendum, and should not have been approved by the DoI.

The federal District Court for the District of Columbia will have the final say, and the court has scheduled a Nov. 5 date to hear oral arguments on the Magic City motion. The question at the core of the suit is whether online wagering by people outside tribal land equals gaming on tribal land due to the server being located within Indian grounds.

Magic City and Bonita Poker Room allege that the agreement with the state violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. “IGRA makes abundantly clear that its provisions are limited to gaming conducted on Indian lands,” reads the motion. “IGRA refers to gaming on Indian lands thirty-four times and does not once discuss gaming that occurs outside of Indian lands.”

Moreover, both parties are raising a secondary argument on excluding other businesses, alleging that the Legislature not only gave the Seminole Tribe the sole right to sports betting, but made it a felony for anyone else to operate wagers. “This is an unlawful abuse of IGRA that goes way beyond anything Congress ever intended,” reads the motion.

The motion also defines the compact as “discriminating in favor of one specific tribe”, which is given a monopoly to conduct gambling business. The compact allows sports bets at six of the tribe’s reservations while permitting Florida’s racetracks and jai-alai frontons to develop their own apps and to conduct off-reservation bets if chosen by the tribe as its partners: parimutuels are allowed to take 60% of the proceeds from bets; the tribe receives the remaining 40%.

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