Florida’s Seminole Gambling Compact Faces Federal Approval and Many Believe Tribal Gambling Laws and the Florida Constitution make the Sports Gambling Provisions Invalid

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments in the approval of the newly negotiated Florida gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe.  While most agree the compact is a key and necessary part of balancing gambling expansion in Florida, many believe this compact has gone too far to expand gambling, most specifically in regards to statewide Sports gambling.  The Compact has been passed by the Florida Legislature and the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and now it goes before the Federal Government.  An online source explains:

The Department of the Interior oversees tribal-state gambling “compacts,” such as the one that Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. signed April 23 and sent to lawmakers for approval. Once the compact is submitted, the Department of the Interior has 45 days to approve the plan, reject it or allow it to go into effect without the federal agency’s action.

Federal officials will “look at the compact and see if there are any provisions in there that are problematic,” said George Skibine, whose lengthy career with the Department of the Interior included a stint as director of the Office of Indian Gaming.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires that covered gaming activities occur on “Indian lands,” Skibine noted. The deal with the Seminoles may turn out to be a national test case for other tribal compacts, he said.

Clearly there are past examples in other states that looked at a similar issue, and they concluded all gambling must take place on tribal land.  There are two other examples of mobile gambling involving tribal land, but both of those cases involve the tribes letting the state government handle the regulations and taxation of the gambling.  This Florida case just isn’t the same as those given that the Seminole Tribe is fully regulating sports betting and the Florida constitution currently prohibits sports betting in Florida and would require a statewide vote of the people to establish it as legal gambling.  An online source explains:

So how come Arizona and Connecticut have a clear path forward and the Seminoles do not? The key is regulatory structure.

A group of Arizona tribes and Gov. Doug Ducey announced a compact and companion legislation earlier this year that allows the tribes to open retail and online sportsbooks, among other gaming expansion options. The federal Department of the Interior has already approved the retail sportsbook components of the deal.

Critically, the compact didn’t include online betting and the tribes agreed to let Arizona government officials regulate, license and tax their online sportsbooks under a separate bill approved by the legislature.

Connecticut’s two gaming tribes and Gov. Ned Lamont announced a similar deal this year that’s now awaiting formal federal government approval. Just like Arizona’s tribes, Connecticut’s Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes agreed to separate online casino gaming and sports betting from the compact’s retail betting language.

Conversely, Florida’s compact gives the Seminoles rights to online sports betting through its own digital platform and to partner with pari-mutuel facilities for additional mobile skins. Federal law and subsequent court rulings make it seem the Seminoles don’t have authorization for online sports betting under a compact, leading many to believe federal officials will strip those provisions from the agreement.

Moreover, IGRA very clearly outlines that the gambling activity must take place on Tribal land or must be the same gambling that the state already recognizes as legal.  Some have argued that in an attempt to rush the deal, they didn’t follow current models for proper gambling compacts, and are at real risk of rejection by the Federal Government.  The source concludes:

This strict interpretation of IGRA within the language of the law and ensuing court rulings has limited gaming to physical options on tribal lands. All states that offer or have approved any form of regulated online tribal gaming, such as Arizona, Connecticut and Michigan, have done so independent of federal compacting law. Instead, these tribes maintain autonomy over in-person gaming for their brick-and-mortar gaming options and act like commercial operators for their online options.

Daniel Wallach, a Florida-based gaming attorney and sports betting legal analyst, told the Action Network the Seminoles and Florida policymakers could have followed the model established in other states. Instead, trying to shoehorn online sports betting authorization under federal law jeopardizes its very legality.

“Michigan and Arizona have acknowledged this jurisdictional limitation and crafted a solution that appears to satisfy IGRA,” Wallach said. “Florida, on the other hand, has brazenly ignored the plain and unambiguous language of IGRA, and has set up a flawed system that is on a fast track to a federal court rebuke.”

Florida’s Miami-Beach Mayor Dan Gelber was equally blunt with his rhetoric in a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior.  The Tampa Bay times provides excerpts of his letter:

“I support the goals of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (’IGRA’), namely, to provide Native American tribes with a pathway to greater independence and economic vitality. But the Florida Compact you are considering was not crafted in pursuit of those goals,” Gelber wrote in a nine-page letter to Deb Haaland, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“It was simply a vehicle hijacked by non-tribal casino interests who fully corrupted the legislative and executive process in order to obtain advantages outside of tribal land and in direct contravention to the interests of Floridians.”

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