Bet continues: Seminole tribe ignores federal decision to end sports betting in Florida

During the most recent episode of American bets‘ weekly Bid on podcast, co-host Eric Raskin tried to unravel the tangled web of legal sports betting in the Sunshine State, which continues despite a federal judge ruling last week that its mode of implementation was illegal and should cease at once.

After classifying Florida as “a state known for its ridiculousness in all aspects of life,” Raskin pointed out that around 20 US jurisdictions have succeeded in creating a framework for legal sports betting without doing so in a way. doomed to confinement. in court, where things stand in Florida after Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe reached a deal that circumvented a 2018 state law requiring any expansion of the game to be voted on by the people. They achieved this by stating that all mobile sports betting in the state would be routed through computer servers located on tribal lands, meaning gambling in Florida would technically not undergo any physical expansion. Under this server-centric scheme, the Seminoles and, in turn, the State, would take a big chunk of the action.

“I just find the whole situation unnecessarily messy,” Raskin said. “If the Florida state government wanted to give its citizens legal access to sports betting and wanted to generate tax revenue for the state, there were a number of models on how to do it successfully and how to do it successfully. a way that actually serves the public And they ignored them and made their own little behind-the-scenes deal with the Seminoles and created this monopoly mess that is now stuck in court. ”

Before we dive into the ridiculous and messy, let’s go back to 2018. That year, thanks in large part to then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Privacy Act. professional and amateur sports (PASPA), which previously non-mutual sports betting restricted to the state of Nevada. (Sports involving mutual betting include horse racing, jai-alai, and dog racing.) The High Court ruling allowed each state to write and adopt its own set of rules regarding betting. sportsmen. Some have demanded that these bets be made in person, while others have also created space for mobile betting. Some require mobile sports betting to have a physical partner, while a few allow mobile betting without any retail consideration. And a handful of states have chosen to restrict these bets – whether in person or of the geo-fenced “mobile on site” variety – to tribal properties.

Florida being Florida, it adopted what amounted to the most confusing hodgepodge of all of the above. And now, as you might expect, the fate of Florida sports betting rests in the courts – unless some well-funded initiative ends up on the ballot and scatters the Seminoles chip stack.

When the Florida state legislature approved the gaming pact, the Seminoles negotiated with DeSantis, which effectively gave the tribe a monopoly on sports betting in the state, officials and legal eagles took over. immediately predicted that it would be challenged in court.

“It doesn’t take a master’s degree to know there will be litigation,” Rep. Sam Garrison said, while Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls added: “I don’t think there is any chance of enter into a gambling deal of the size and scope that was negotiated by Governor DeSantis without legal challenge. You are navigating the icebergs of legal hurdles in doing so. ”

But others felt that any legal challenge was likely to fail. On this point, Bob Jarvis, professor of gambling law at Nova Southeastern University, called the one brought in by a pair of pari-mutuel operators – the Magic City Casino in Miami and the Bonita Springs Poker Room – as “dead. at the arrival “.

The big winners of this agreement, which ultimately won passive federal approval from the Home Office, were, unsurprisingly, the state and the Seminoles. The pact called for the Seminoles to pay a total of $ 2.5 billion to the state over the first five years of the pact. And if the tribe wanted to partner with selected pari-mutuel parlors to offer sports betting – which they ultimately decided to do – they would receive a hefty surcharge of 40% of gross gaming revenue per bet.

The Tribe’s parimutual partners can team up with established national sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel, but their third level of action doesn’t make sense from a business standpoint, given that they enjoy big status. dog in virtually every other state where sports betting is legal. This momentum led DraftKings and FanDuel to invest tens of millions of dollars in an effort to raise public awareness and collect signatures aimed at securing a measure on the ballot that would give voters the ability to open sports betting to all qualified operators (including Seminoles).

Because as well funded as this initiative is, its presence at the polls is far from being won in advance. On the one hand, the sports betting alliance’s political action committee, Florida Education Champions, has been accused of running distasteful ads featuring children, and its paid signature collectors have allegedly harassed students on the campus for their John and Jane Hancocks. And the PAC, which emphasizes education as the primary beneficiary of the game’s expansion, has until Feb. 2, 2022 to collect 891,589 valid signatures. Only 123,323 had been verified last weekend, although the PAC told the website Sport grip that he had collected over 500,000 and was confident that he would reach the required threshold in time.

Speaking of last Monday, that’s when a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, DC, turned it all upside down. Go against a previous decision in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ruled in favor of parimutual applicants, citing a 2014 United States Supreme Court opinion in which Justice Elena Kegan noted that “everything – literally everything – in India’s gambling regulation law provides tools … to regulate gambling on the Indian lands, and nowhere else ”.

And for Friedrich, “nowhere else” includes cyberspace, where mobile bets are placed.

“Although the Compact judges[s]’all sports betting must take place at the location of the tribe’s’ sport book'[s]”and the supporting servers, this court cannot accept this fiction,” she wrote. “When a federal law allows activity only in specific places, the parties cannot escape that limitation by ‘considering’ their activity to take place where it, in fact, does not.”

So is this the end of sports betting in Florida, which was uploaded on November 1?

No, but maybe.

On the one hand, in his decision, Friedrich clarified that sports betting could be legalized again through a revised pact or a “citizens’ initiative”, like the one that DraftKings and FanDuel support. And, more importantly, the Seminoles ignored last Monday’s decision and continued to accept mobile betting through its Hard Rock app, as the tribe appealed the decision in the belief that it would be put on hold pending release. other disputes.

They were wrong about a stay: a week ago Friedrich rejected their appeal. They immediately transferred their strategy to the United States Court of Appeals and, again, chose to keep their betting application running in defiance of the failed effort.

“There was always a chance that a judge would conclude that only sports betting placed on Indian lands is permitted under [the] IGRA, ”said Jarvis, who believes the case could go to the US Supreme Court.

The law professor went on to say that he disagreed with Friedrich’s decision, calling it a “rough interpretation of [the] IGRA, “which was passed by Congress in the pre-Internet era of 1988.

Jarvis believes decision “ignores what Congress would have done if it had foreseen the Internet boom at the time of writing. [the] IGRA, and does not respect the purpose and spirit of the IGRA, which was to lift the tribes out of poverty by allowing them to use gambling as an economic lever. ”

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