Seminole Tribe Urges Florida Supreme Court To Reject Lawsuit Seeking Online Sports Betting Ban

Seminole Tribe Urges Florida Supreme Court To Reject Lawsuit Seeking Online Sports Betting Ban
Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

The Seminole Tribe of Florida received approval from the state Supreme Court Friday afternoon to submit their argument in a case that could determine the legality of online Florida sports betting.

While not officially a party in the lawsuit filed in September by West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., the tribe has a vested interest because it’s a party in the gaming compact signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and approved by state lawmakers. The plaintiffs, which run commercial parimutuel gaming operations, contend DeSantis and the Florida Legislature violated the state constitution by giving the Seminoles exclusive rights to offer sports betting across the state.

West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers contend the online sports betting provisions of the compact and the accompanying state law codifying it violate an amendment Florida voters ratified five years ago that requires any casino gaming proposal to gain voter approval.

In the 33-page amicus brief filed to support the Florida leaders, the Seminole Tribe contends that the compact and law consider a sports betting wager placed anywhere in the state actually occurs on tribal land since the server processing and accepting the wager is located on a Seminole reservation. Tribal leaders filed the brief and requested to submit it earlier on Friday. No parties in the case objected to the tribe’s request.

“The Legislature has broad and general authority under the Florida Constitution to enact laws,” the tribe states. “This includes the authority to enact laws that deem commercial transactions to occur in one location or another as a matter of law for tax, regulatory, and other purposes. Such laws, like the Implementing Law, address the practical challenges of regulating commercial transactions that take place in more than one location by deeming the entire transaction to occur in one location or another as a matter of law.”

The case before the Florida Supreme Court is one of two filed by the plaintiffs in their attempt to stop online sports betting. They are also preparing to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding their federal case, in which an appeals court earlier this year overturned a lower court’s decision that threw out the 2021 compact.

Hard Rock Bet Now Available Statewide

Friday’s amicus brief capped off a busy week for the tribe. On Tuesday, Seminole Gaming ended the soft opening period for its Hard Rock Bet online wagering platform and opened the site for access across Florida. During the month Hard Rock Bet resumed operations, it was limited to people who had wagered through the app when it was available two years ago or are members of Unity, Hard Rock’s customer loyalty program.

The Florida sports betting app was initially launched in the state in November 2021. Seminole officials suspended operations a month later after a federal district judge ruled against the U.S. Department of the Interior, which approved the gaming compact earlier that year.

On Thursday, Seminole leaders gathered at its casinos in South Florida to celebrate the opening of brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at the venues. The casinos also unveiled roulette and dice-based table games, which the gaming compact approved for the tribe. Similar openings were scheduled for Seminole casinos in Tampa on Friday and elsewhere in the state on Monday.

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Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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