ORLANDO, Fla. – If you’re hoping to bet on the Super Bowl online from your couch in Florida, you’re out of luck.
Despite a compact between the Seminole Tribe and Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021, sports betting is still not allowed in Florida.
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A lawsuit has stopped betting in the state. An appeals court heard arguments in December, and everyone is now awaiting a ruling.
Here’s what happened.
In April 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe agreed to a 30-year deal called a compact. The tribe would be allowed to operate sports betting, as well as offer craps and roulette at its casinos.
To get around a 2018 voter-approved amendment that only authorized gambling in the state if it was approved by voters, the servers for the sports betting were supposed to be located on tribal land.
In return for agreeing to the compact, the state would get at least $2.5 billion over the first five years, and an estimated $20 billion over the 30 years of the deal.
The U.S. Department of the Interior, overseer of American Indian affairs, allowed the contract to go through under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which governs the framework for tribal gambling.
But nontribal gambling facilities in Florida, including the owners of Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County, sued to stop the compact in federal court. They sued the Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Debra Haaland.
A judge in November 2021 ruled with the plaintiffs. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said the Interior Department should have stopped the compact because it violated the IGRA, which says that state-sanctioned tribal gambling can only happen on tribal land.
In the ruling, the judge called the idea that sports betting was taking place on tribal land because the servers would be housed on tribal land “a fiction.”
“When a federal statute authorizes an activity only at specific locations, parties may not evade that limitation by ‘deeming’ their activity to occur where it, as a factual matter, does not,” Friedrich said.
The courts also denied the tribe’s request to keep the sports betting compact in place while the case moved through the court’s system, so sports betting was put on hold in Florida.
And that’s where sports betting has been in Florida ever since. The federal government appealed the lower court’s decision, and in December a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C. heard arguments.
During that hearing, an attorney for the Interior Department said the federal government has a duty to make sure the deal was consistent with the IGRA, but not that the deal complies with Florida state law.
An attorney for the plaintiffs, however, said that the government could not say the compact was in line with the IGRA if it did allow gambling to occur off tribal lands.
“If you are remotely tempted to accept their argument, I beg you, make it crystal clear that your order says this secretary’s approval does not in any way authorize the gambling that takes place off Indian land,” said attorney Hamish Hume.
Daniel Wallach, an attorney specializing in gaming law, spoke to News 6′s Justin Warmoth about Florida sports betting situation on “The Weekly” last September.
At the time, he had a bleak outlook on the chances of sports betting coming to Florida.
“The clearest path to sports betting in Florida is, in all likelihood, through the ballot initiative process,” Wallach said. “That seems to be the most realistic path forward for both retail and online sports betting, which means, as a practical matter, the first legal bet in Florida likely won’t be made until 2025.”
But after the December oral arguments, Wallach seemed a bit more optimistic, tweeting “After today’s oral argument, the notion of legal sports betting in Florida as early as 2023 may not be so far-fetched.”
However, Wallach cautioned it won’t be the end of the legal journey for the case though.
And even with a reversal, there may not be a sports betting re-launch in Florida until the end of the appellate process, which could entail en banc review before the full DC Circuit and then certiorari review by #SCOTUS. Court’s mandate may not issue in the interim.— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) December 14, 2022
Wallach tweeted that he suspects a ruling to come in the next few months. Stay tuned.
Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.
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