New Florida Seminole Gambling Compact Reached, but the Inclusion of Sports Betting is Sure to Elicit Legal Challenges

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the years long attempts and finalizing a new gambling agreement between Florida and the Seminole Nation.  It would appear the long awaited agreement has finally been reached, but it will still need to be ratified in a special legislative session before it becomes law.  The Orlando Fox Affiliate reports:

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe finalized a 30-year gambling agreement on Friday, inking a deal that would deliver at least $2.5 billion to Florida over the next five years in exchange for giving the tribe control over statewide sports betting. Tribal leaders, including Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., joined DeSantis in his Tallahassee office for a ceremonial signing of the deal, known as a “compact.”

“We truly believe that this is the best deal for everybody. It’s not in favor of the tribe or the state. It’s in favor of both parties, because this is a long-lasting team,” Osceola said. DeSantis noted Friday that the agreement, which requires approval by the Legislature, would allow the state to capitalize on online sport betting.

Although many are pleased to finally see a new compact agreement reached, those who oppose see the compact as a legislative overreach, as it expands gambling without a vote of the people. Florida Voters overwhelmingly passed an amendment that requires all gambling expansion in Florida to be approved by the voters.  Fox continues:   

But John Sowinski, the campaign manager of the political committee behind the amendment, said sports betting and several other provisions in the proposed compact, which would allow the Seminoles to add craps and roulette to their current casino operations, run afoul of the Constitution.

The amendment, which was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters, “requires voter approval for any new casino gambling,” Sowinski said Friday in a prepared statement.

“That includes sports gambling, player designated games, craps, roulette, moving slot machine permits, and any other form of Class III gambling,” he said, referring to federal law classifications of tribal gaming. “The proposed compact violates the letter and spirit of Amendment 3. We call on the governor and our legislators to honor the will of the people, who demanded that any new casino gambling authorization occur at the ballot box, not behind closed doors in Tallahassee.”

Gov. DeSantis said he is willing to vicariously defend the agreement, claiming that this gambling is not in Florida, as Amendment 3 covers, but the sovereign land of the Seminole Tribe.  The agreement also allows for mobile gambling, which would clearly take place by people off the reservation and on actual public land.  Gov. DeSantis claims that because the servers are on tribal land, there is no violation.  However, a similar case was heard in CA and it could hurt that very argument.  An online source explains:

They would also have to argue that statewide mobile betting, accessible to gamblers outside the Seminole reservations, does not constitute gambling expansion in the state because servers are located on Seminole land.

This potentially conflicts with a 2016 federal court ruling against the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel When, in 2014, the Nation launched an online bingo site in California on the grounds that bets were being processed on its territory, they were swiftly sued by the State of California and the federal government. Ultimately, the court ruled “a bet must be legal both where it is initiated and where it is received.”

It may never come to that. While the bill has the backing it needs in the Senate, support is less assured in the House, which has become a graveyard for gambling expansion bills in recent years.

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