Legal challenges

Florida sports betting legal today, faces delay over lawsuits against Seminoles compact

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing the bills related to the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe on May 25, which are now being challenged.
United States
Reading time 2:11 min
Despite sports wagering legal from Friday, none of the state's casinos have announced a date when they will begin taking bets. The expanded compact between the Seminoles and Florida is facing three legal actions, which claim it violates federal law. On November 5, a judge will hold a hearing for one of the lawsuits, which could offer clarity on the situation.

A series of legal challenges are threatening to delay Florida’s much-anticipated sports betting launch, set to go live on Friday. Even though wagering becomes legal this day, enthusiasts won’t be able to start placing wagers yet: none of the state’s casinos have announced a date when they will begin taking bets.

The legal hurdles could keep gambling off the table until 2022. According to WINK-TV, operators and the general public will get a better picture of the future of the market on November 5, the date on which a judge will hold a hearing for one of three lawsuits challenging the gaming contract between Florida and the Seminole Tribe.

Should the judge throw out the lawsuit, legal experts believe the tribe could launch mobile and in-person sports betting within the next 60 days. “That certainly seems to be the operating assumption of what’s coming out of the Hard Rock properties,” sports betting expert and attorney John Holden told the aforementioned news source.

The legal actions claim that the mobile betting portion of the compact violates federal law, illegally authorizing off-reservation sports wagering: offering statewide online sports betting through servers on tribal lands cannot be considered equivalent to betting on tribal lands, they argue.

Moreover, the compact between the state and the Seminoles has been criticized as violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act by allowing the tribal nation to enter into partnerships with parimutuels to handle their sportsbooks. This is claimed to unlawfully seek to “enrich non-tribal interests.”

Finally, parties opposing the expanded compact claim that by excluding other businesses and giving the Seminole Tribe the sole right to sports betting, while making it a felony for anyone else to operate wagers, the state is discriminating in favor of one specific tribe.

These lawsuits are likely a part of why the Seminoles won’t launch Friday, although a spokesperson told WINK the tribe never planned to start October 15 in the first place, claiming it was merely the date chosen by the state legislature back in May.

Appeals from commercial sites and anti-gambling groups should also be expected: if a judge rules in their favor, appeals from the state and the tribe are just as likely. Experts claim it could be late 2022 before the issue is resolved before a federal appeals court. At that point, the losing side will most likely petition the United States Supreme Court to get involved.

For now, the upcoming hearing in three weeks will offer clarity on the situation. Out of the three lawsuits trying to stop sports betting from launching, two were filed by the group that owns Bonita Springs Poker Room and Magic City Casino, and the other by developer Armando Codina and auto retailer Norman Braman, two of Miami’s most outspoken critics of gambling.

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