Companies that own two private casinos in Florida have filed suit in the federal court of the US. According to the suit, the Florida gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida needs to be ruled unlawful and the approval of the federal government needs to be vacated.
The Compact is Based on a Fiction, the Suit States
The complaint states that the compact was illegally approved by the federal government on August 7 and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It elaborates that it illegally allows sports betting to take place online, and according to the suit – not on tribal lands controlled by the Seminole Tribe.
West Flagler Associates, a company that operates Miami’s Magic City Casino, as well as Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., which operates Bonita Springs Poker Room, sued Deb Haaland (Interior Secretary) and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Bonita Springs Poker Room is Magic City’s affiliate in Bonita Springs and the Havenick family of Miami controls both of these casinos.
Florida’s enabling of the legislation and the compact’s sports betting components are based on so-called fiction, as declared by the lawsuit. It asserts that, per the compact, sports betting is taking place on tribal lands because the servers that accept these bets are located there. However, in reality, bettors are wagering their money elsewhere in Florida.
Republican Rep. Randy Fine’s infamous ‘betting in your bathtub’ comment was also brought up by the suit. Fine was the chair of the House Select Committee on Gaming back in May. He stated that the Committee is going to allow the Seminole Tribe to provide bettors with sports betting services in which bettors can sit in the bathtub or their couch, and think about a football game on which a bet can be placed regardless of your physical location.
This is Not the First Suit Against the Compact
This is not the first suit against the compact. In July, the interests behind Magic City Casino filed a suit for the Northern District of Florida against Florida in U.S. District Court and Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis is the person that signed the Compact in May, but the agreement was met with some resistance.
Additionally, there has been an initiative on a constitutional amendment in Florida to convince voters to approve expanded gambling opportunities. But, it is worth noting that these events took place before the federal government’s compact approval last week.
Gary Bitner, a Seminole Tribe of Florida and Seminole Gaming spokesperson, stated that the gaming compact, as approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Florida Legislature, is in effect and agreed on by the Seminole Tribe and the Governor. Moreover, the compact has the support of two-thirds of Florida’s population.
The Suit Has Several Claims Against Haaland
The Governor’s Office state that the suit is being reviewed and that it will respond to it accordingly in court. There are several claims in the suit which are against Haaland. The first one is connected to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. This act reportedly allows Haaland to approve these types of compacts to the extent of them concerning gambling on Indian lands.
Moreover, the complaint states that online transactions would be in violation of federal wire laws by allowing sports betting payments between the reservations of the Tribe and the rest of Florida, where wagering on sports is actually illegal.
The suit also states that with the federal approval, the guarantee on equal protection that is covered in the Fifth Amendment is violated because the tribe will be able to provide Florida residents with online sports betting services, whereas that would be considered a criminal offense if anyone else does it.
Not only that, but the suit considers the approval as a weak and semantic attempt. It charges that wagers that are placed outside of the Tribe’s reservations will still be processed as bets placed on the reservations, as long as they are received on devices and servers located on said reservations.
Hence, this fiction actually contradicts the prior position of the federal government and the federal law that recognizes that betting/wagering takes place where the wager is received and where the bettor is located.
One additional matter that is brought up by the suit is that the compact violates the Constitution of Florida. It advises the court that the Constitution prohibits casino gambling expansion unless it is approved through a citizens’ initiative. It concludes that sports betting in Florida hasn’t been authorized by any initiative of this type.