November 26, 2021 Sports Betting, Tribal, Legal

Federal judge rejects Seminole Tribe's motion of stay

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Ruling is a continuation in the fight to allow online betting in Florida.

A drama involving the Seminole Tribe, the state of Florida, the Hard Rock Sportsbook, and a federal district court has entered its latest iteration on Thursday after the Tribe’s request for a stay against an earlier ruling was rejected by a judge.

Effectively, this means that the Seminole Tribe does not have the right to operate as an online sports book in the state.  

The back story is: the Florida legislature legalized sports betting in May but, before the law could be implemented, two casinos sued the Department of the Interior (who in this case had approved of online betting) to block the decision, citing the irreparable harm that would be inflicted upon their businesses. From November 1, the state went ahead anyway, allowing the Seminole Tribe the right to operate despite there being a challenge underway in federal court. On Monday this week, a federal district judge ordered the online betting to cease. The Seminole Tribe appealed, asking for a stay on the decision, and now their appeal has been rejected.  

Despite the judge’s ruling coming on Wednesday night, as of Thursday morning the online Hard Rock Sportsbook – wired through servers on Seminole land – was still fully operational. 

The Seminoles had argued to the court that the stay would have led to severe revenue loss, thereby affecting the tribe’s ability to fund programs beneficial to the community. 

In the ruling, Judge Dabney French rejected this argument. She also claimed that the Seminoles operating in this fashion – allowing online betting which, in effect, could happen anywhere in Florida – was a violation of the Indian Gaming Regulation Act, which explicitly restricts gaming to reservation land. 

The saga will likely continue, as the Seminole Tribe has the right to file another motion of stay with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the next highest wrung on the federal court ladder.  

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