Judge denies Seminole Tribe’s motion to continue offering sports betting in Florida

On Wednesday, US District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich denied the Seminole Tribe’s request for a stay to continue offering sports betting in Florida.

This comes after Friedrich ruled on Monday that the Seminole’s amended compact to offer sports betting was in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

Judge rejects Seminole’s request

On late Wednesday, Judge Friedrich denied the Seminole Tribe’s request to continue offering sports betting in Florida.

This marked the second time in three days that Friedrich called for sports betting to come to an end in Florida. 

On Monday, the judge ruled in favor of West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Meyers Associates in their case against the US Department of the Interior. Friedrich ruled that the compact between the state of Florida and the tribal group to allow sports betting be vacated.

After the ruling, the tribe continued to offer sports betting even though it was ordered to stop.

Earlier this week, the tribe appealed to the US Circuit Court of Appeals, which will be a three-judge panel. The case has been assigned a circuit court case number, but at the time of writing, there is no schedule for hearings or decisions available. 

How did the compact violate the IGRA?

The compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida was agreed upon in April and signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis in May. The compact essentially granted the Seminoles, which own the Hard Rock brand, exclusive rights over online and in-person sports betting in Florida.

The Department of the Interior, led by Secretary Deb Haaland, allowed the compact to become law earlier this year.

The compact was challenged by multiple parties in the state including casino operators West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation in the District of Columbia District Court.

The lawsuit questioned whether online wagering powered by servers located on tribal property could be considered as being on tribal land. According to the legal challenge, this amounted to a violation of Florida’s state constitution, which states that any expansion beyond tribal lands must be approved through a referendum. 

On Monday that the compact violated the IGRA and that pending an appeal and a potential stay of the order, sports betting will need to cease in the Sunshine State.

Friedrich said that the “Court will hold that the Compact violates IGRA and grant the West Flagler plaintiffs. She explained that under the IGRA, all gambling must take place on tribal lands when authorized by state compacts. However, online sports betting takes place statewide under the Seminole compact. 

Friedrich ruled that the compact attempted to “authorize sports betting both on and off Indian lands,” violating the IGRA.

What Friedrich said on Wednesday

In her decision on Wednesday, Friedrich wrote “the Tribe failed to show that this Court’s decision will cause irreparable harm” however the plaintiffs are facing “ongoing competitive injury.” This is because the compact between the state of Florida and the tribe would provide the Seminoles with a monopoly over sports betting in the state.

The judge also explained that the tribe rushed ahead with launching sports betting ahead of schedule.

On 1 November, the tribe launched online sports betting in Florida early, without any formal announcement. However, according to the plaintiffs in the court case, this was not supposed to happen until 15 November, in order to allow time for a decision by the court in the initial case.

The tribe said they never publicly announced a launch date, but Friedrich argued that the tribe misrepresented its intentions.

She wrote: “Although the tribe invokes an interest in preserving the status quo, online gaming under the Compact began only on November 1, 2021, and the tribe previously represented that it would not begin until November 15.”