U.S. Department of Interior Appeals November Florida Sports Betting Ruling

U.S. Department of Interior Appeals November Florida Sports Betting Ruling
By Christopher Boan

The federal government is gearing up for an appeal of a November ruling that struck down the Seminole Tribe’s sports betting application.

In a summation Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said the department plans on appealing the ruling on the grounds the Seminole Tribe’s sports betting venture did not violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Haaland’s appeal comes two months after U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled the Seminole Tribe’s Florida sports betting application violates the act, which restricts gambling activities to tribal land.

“The State and the Tribe may agree to a new compact … that allows online gaming solely on Indian lands,” Friedrich wrote in November’s ruling. “Because the most recent compact is no longer in effect, continuing to offer online sports betting would violate federal law.”

Why Florida Sports Betting Went to Court

The tribe launched its sports betting operation Nov. 1, without advance notice, giving Floridians the opportunity to bet on live action via their Hard Rock Sportsbook app.

The tribe’s sports betting activities were quickly quelled, after a pair of lawsuits, including West Flagler Associates’ suit against Haaland and the DOI over the compact signed with the Seminole Tribe.

That suit centered around the argument the tribe shouldn’t have a monopoly on the state’s fledgling sports betting marketplace. West Flagler Associates owns Magic City Casino, near Miami, and Bonita Springs Poker Room on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The other suit argued the compact was illegal as it wasn’t approved by at least 60% of the state’s voters, which is a stipulation under a state amendment. The compact was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. in May.

A political action committee that has received $10 million apiece from DraftKings and FanDuel seeks to get a proposition measure on the 2022 ballot that would legalize sports betting at professional sports arenas and other sites in Florida.

What’s Behind the U.S. DOI Appeal

A major hang-up with the Seminole Tribe’s sports betting rollout was their use of a “hub-and-spoke” system, in which their servers that processed sports betting wagers were located on tribal land, but wagers were allowed anywhere in the state.

That nuance led to Friedrich’s ruling against the compact in November. The Tribe pulled down its betting app in early December.

Now, Haaland and the U.S. DOI are appealing that decision, arguing the Florida-Seminole tribe compact only granted in-person sports betting and the state’s law authorized online sports betting.

It’s unclear whether the court will take up the DOI’s appeal, and there is no deadline for Friedrich or any other district judge to accept or reject the department’s appeal.

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Christopher Boan writes for FloridaBet.com and has been covering sports and sports betting for more than seven years, with experience at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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