Wild, unpredictable, complex, and a maze. No, I’m not referring to the Everglades– That’s just a few of the adjectives that might go through the average sports bettor’s mind when they look at what has happened in Florida recently. The Florida sports gambling lawsuit phase is upon us.
This past weekend, a pair of parimutuel facilities filed suit against the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s new compact with the state, and a politician from California filed a bill calling for the end of restrictions for online gaming on Indian lands.
Both stories have big implications for the future of sports betting in Florida and beyond.
The Florida Sports Gambling lawsuit
Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room (Southwest Parimutuels) have teamed up to file a complaint in the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida regarding Florida’s compact with the Seminole tribe.
The complaint focuses on a specific part of the compact related to Seminole tribe sports betting. As the compact stands now, it would allow the tribe to operate sports betting throughout the state. The compact notes that though bets would take place off of Seminole land, the servers processing those bets are on Seminole land. This is known as the “hub and spoke” model; the Seminole servers are the hub, and the spokes extend to each bet placed in the state.
Opponents – the Magic City lawsuit, in particular – argue that while the compact’s argument may sound legit, it doesn’t have the legal precedent to sustain itself.
According to the Miami Herald, the lawsuit claims that the compact’s hub-and-spoke model violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which allows gambling only on Indian lands, on lands held in trust by the United States “for the benefit of any Indian tribe or individual,” or on land held by a tribe or individual that’s subject to certain protective federal restrictions.
Magic City’s argument isn’t just a one-off opinion; there is some legal precedent. A 2014 Supreme Court case noted that IGRA doesn’t provide immunity or provisions for gambling that takes place off Indian land. In other words, the spokes in the hub-and-spoke model aren’t protected by IGRA.
“While we are fully supportive of Gov. DeSantis and his work to secure a new Seminole Compact, the lawsuit focuses on a very narrow aspect of the Compact—the legality of off reservation and online sports wagering,’’ Southwest Parimutuels Vice President of Public Affairs Isadore Havenick said in a statement to the Herald when contacted about the Florida sports gambling lawsuit.
The new bill in Congress
News of the Magic City lawsuit broke this past weekend. Before the shockwaves even had a chance to settle, Rep. J. Luis Correa filed a bill in Congress that would “remove Federal barriers regarding the offering of mobile wagers on Indian lands when the applicable State and Indian Tribe have reached an agreement, and for other purposes.”
Correa has yet to file any text to accompany the bill’s title, but Congressional records show he appeared before the House of Representatives to introduce the bill.
In his appearance, he explained why IGRA needs clarification about online gambling. Simply put, he argued, IGRA was enacted in 1988 when the internet didn’t exist.
“The federal law governing tribal gaming was enacted in 1988, prior to the internet being readily available, and the law does not expressly address the internet,” Correa said. “As you can imagine, setting up these new gaming systems involves significant financial investments. Tribal governments should not be required to make these investments without having clarity and comfort of what laws will apply to them.”
Correa went on to note that his bill would not authorize internet gaming, but clarify “the location of where the wager takes place for purposes of tribal government gaming.”