Department of the Interior approves Florida’s Seminole Tribe compact

On Friday, the US Department of the Interior approved the Seminole Tribe’s amended compact which includes sports betting.

This comes after Governor Ron DeSantis signed bill SB 2-A into law, formalising the amended Class III gaming compact with the tribe.

DoI approves Seminole compact

While the measure was signed into law by DeSantis in May, the compact needed to receive approval from the US Department of the Interior. Upon receiving the compact, the Department had 45 days to make a decision.

The Department had the option to approve the compact, reject it, or decline to act, which would also constitute approval.

On Friday, in a 12-page letter, the US Department of the Interior informed Seminole Chairman Marcellus Osceola that the Class III compact with the state of Florida complies with federal law and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

In a statement, Governor Ron DeSantis said: “The final approval of this historic gaming compact is a big deal for the State of Florida. 

“This mutually beneficial agreement will grow our economy, expand tourism and recreation and provide billions in new revenue to benefit Floridians. I again want to thank Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., Senate President Wilton Simpson, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls for their part in getting this done for our great state.”

 Marcellus Osceola Jr., Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida added: “Today is a great day for the people of Florida, who will benefit not only from a $2.5 billion revenue-sharing guarantee over five years, but also from statewide sports betting and new casino games that will roll out this fall and mean more jobs for Floridians and more money invested in this state.

 “We thank Governor DeSantis, President Simpson, Speaker Sprowls, and the Florida Legislature for their leadership and hard work.”

What’s covered under the compact?

With the new compact, the Seminole Tribe will have the exclusive right to offer online and in-person sports betting in Florida, or contract pari-mutuel betting operators to offer betting.

Under the measure, the tribe will also be permitted to offer fantasy sports contests and certain Class III games such as raffles, craps, roulette, slot machines, and banked card games.

The Seminole Tribe will be required to pay 13.75% of income from players that bet through a pari-mutuel sports betting operator to the state during each revenue sharing cycle.

Potential challenges on the horizon

Although the compact has been approved, the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe could face legal challenges regarding the implementation of sports betting.

When the compact was ratified by the House of Representatives in May, lawmakers on both sides acknowledged that legal challenges would be inevitable. 

In addition to this, top US commercial sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel are expected to take legal action. The approval of the compact has dealt a massive blow to commercial operators.

Although the compact legalised sports betting, it will create a system that is largely controlled by the Seminoles. While the tribe can partner with up to three pari-mutuel wagering facilities, the agreement states that all bets must be processed through servers located on tribal land.

According to commercial sportsbook operators, this grants the tribe a virtual monopoly on Florida’s sports betting market.

In June, a new ballot initiative that would permit commercial operators to offer sports betting in the state of Florida was filed.

The initiative was sponsored by Florida Education Champions and it was later revealed that DraftKings, FanDuel, and lobbying firm Orrick.

The initiative would ask voters whether they want to permit statewide mobile sports betting via a referendum. 

The title of the proposed constitutional amendment reads: “Authorizes sports and event betting. If betting revenues are taxed, taxes must supplement education.”

The summary of the initiative says it “Authorizes sports and event betting under Florida law at professional sports venues and pari-mutuel facilities and statewide via online sports betting platforms by entities authorized to conduct online sports betting, and by Native American tribes with a Florida gaming compact, only for persons 21 years and older.

“Requires legislative action to regulate sports betting. Legislature may tax betting revenues, and all such taxes are required to supplement the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.”

In order to succeed and make it to the ballot in 2022, the initiative would need 891,589 signatures. If it goes to the ballot, the initiative would then need at least 60% of the vote to pass.