August 19, 2021 Sports Betting, Casino, Legal

Florida gaming properties sue Department of Interior over Seminole compact

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Two pari-mutuel Florida gaming properties have filed a complaint against U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for signing off on an online gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and state of Florida that gives the Seminoles exclusive access to offer sports betting.

Plaintiffs West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation, which operate Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room resepectively, filed the suit in D.C. district court in a last-ditch effort to block the compact.

In August the DOI’s Bureau of Indian allowed a 45-day review period to expire without taking any action, thus making the compact the law.

The compact will allow the Seminoles to operate retail sports betting at their Florida casinos and to offer mobile sports betting throughout the state.

The lawsuit claims the compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Wire Act and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, and Florida Constitution.

The plaintiffs say the compact violates IRGA by permitting the tribe to operate gaming outside of its own reservations.

However, Bryan Newland, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs said the Seminoles were in their right to provide off reservation mobile sports betting.

“The Department will not read restrictions into IGRA that do not exist, Newland wrote in a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. upon the compact’s approval. “Accordingly, provided that a player is not physically located on another tribe’s Indian lands, a tribe should have the opportunity to engage in this type of gaming pursuant to a tribal-state gaming compact.”

The suit goes on to argue that the compact violates other federal laws by “unlawfully permitting internet and bank wire transmission of transactions and payments relating to sports betting between the Tribe’s reservations and the rest of Florida, where sports betting is otherwise illegal.”

These transactions, the plaintiffs argue, would violate both the Wire Act and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act.

The suit additionally argues that the compact violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection by grant the Seminoles a monopoly over online sports betting.

The pari-mutuel gaming businesses previously filed a challenge to the compact in a Florida federal court last month.

The Seminole compact promises to deliver Florida $20bn over 30 years including $2.5bn in the first five years.

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