What is Going On With Legal Sports Betting in Florida?
There are close to 30 states in the US offering legal sports betting in some form. One state recently added to that list was Florida. More recently, the Sunshine State has come off of that list due to ongoing legal challenges to that state’s gaming system.
For a number of years, Florida’s Seminole Tribe has basically held a monopoly on legal gaming within state borders. This has been highlighted by a collection of Hard Rock casino gaming properties located in different parts of the state.
In an effort to bring legal sports betting into the fold, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis negotiated the terms of an amended gaming compact with the tribe earlier this year. The amended compact gave the Seminoles complete control over legal sports betting along with added table games such as slots in the tribe’s land-based casinos.
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Florida lawmakers were quick to approve the new gaming compact from a legislative standpoint. The federal government gave its stamp of approval through a US Department of the Interior formal review. With everything now in place, the Seminole Tribe went live with online sports betting through a Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile betting app.
While all the parties involved with the process were thrilled with the outcome, legal challenges to this plan still had to be addressed. The biggest obstacle was the expansion of any form of gaming in the state outside of approved federal tribal lands.
If gaming was to be expanded outside of Seminole properties, it would take an amendment to Florida’s state constitution. In turn, this would require the approval Florida voters through a special referendum on the general election ballot.
The Seminoles took that stance that mobile sports bets were going through servers located on their tribal territory.
Opposing parties took their case to court. A federal district court judge ruled against the Seminole Tribe on the argument that processing sports bets through servers located on tribal land was illegal.
US District Judge Dabney Friedrich stated that this act violated federal Indian gaming laws on Nov. 22. The Seminoles quickly filed an emergency motion that asked the District of Columbia court to stay the ruling.
It was then determined that the “Appellant has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending appeal.”
The net result of this matter was the temporary suspension of the Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile betting app. That suspension went into effect on Saturday, Dec. 4. Gary Bitner is a spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe. He confirmed that the tribe’s decision to “temporarily suspend operations.” This was tied to the decision on the appeal by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Account balances for all active players “will be refunded as requested.” He added that despite the current situation, the Seminoles “remain committed to building the best place for sports betting in Florida.”
One of the main reasons why both Gov. DeSantis and Florida lawmakers pushed the amended compact through the approval process so quicky were the terms of the deal. The Seminole Tribe committed to a $2.5 billion payment to the state over the first five years.
That figure grew to several billion dollars over the course of the entire 30-year term tied to the amended gaming compact.
One aspect of the compact that garnered the most opposition was the expansion into mobile sports betting anywhere within the state. This expanded legal gaming well outside the confines of tribal land. The fact that mobile bets were being processed through computer servers on tribal land was just too wide of a loophole to ignore.
The Seminoles will continue with the appeal process. However, the immediate future of legal mobile sports betting in the state remains up in the air with no immediate resolution in sight.
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