Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to pass a new gambling compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe. An agreement has been reached, but a provision to legalize mobile sports betting by way of Seminole exclusivity has met tremendous opposition. The most notable reason is because the Florida Constitution requires a vote of the people to expand gambling in Florida. Those behind the agreement claim that the gambling servers are on tribal land and so even if a gambler is off the reservation, it’s still tribal gambling. Despite the intuitive and logical notion that the gambling takes place where the gambler is located, as geolocation is a standard issue states have to deal with when offering gambling to people in their states but not across borders, this issue has been litigated and precedent would deem that the gambling takes place in both locations. This the exact impetus behind two lawsuits that have now been filed against the compact. An online source reports:
It seemed like only a matter of time before a lawsuit was brought against Florida’s new sports betting law — and Friday was that day. Miami-based licensed parimutuel facility Magic City Casino and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., a poker room which also features simulcasting on sports such as horse racing, have filed a “Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief” in federal court against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The complaint claims the new law is passed in violation of federal oversight, in having the Seminole tribe offer sports betting across the entire state of Florida via use of mobile devices such as smartphones.
“[O]nline gambling, including sports betting, is illegal in Florida. The Implementing Law purports to legalize it, but only if conducted by the Tribe under the 2021 Compact. It remains illegal otherwise,” according to the 67-page brief filed by the plaintiffs.
“Pursuant to the 2021 Compact and the Implementing Law, sports bets initiated by persons located physically anywhere within Florida (or even outside the state) are ‘deemed’ to have occurred on Indian lands because the ‘servers’ and ‘devices’ purportedly receiving the bets are to be located on the Tribe’s reservation. ‘Deeming’ the bet to have been placed on Indian lands because the servers are located there contradicts decades of well-established precedent interpreting applicable federal law. Contrary to the legal fiction created by the 2021 Compact and Implementing Law, a bet is placed both where the bettor and the casino are each located.”
Federal Law does allow for gambling on tribal lands, and Congress intended for limitations, such as preventing gambling that is expressly illegal in a state. Not only is the scope of jurisdiction for tribal gambling clear, but there is well established legal precedent for mobile/internet gambling regulation and the location of servers and computers pursuant to such gabmling. Past precedent was clear that the gambling must take place solely on tribal land, or it would be subject to state regulation. They conclude:
“The NIGC has consistently maintained the position that the IGRA does not provide for any form of gaming off Indian lands,” the Florida suit also states. It refers to a 2001 letter by NIGC officials in continuing, “The use of the Internet, even though the computer server may be located on Indian lands, would constitute off-reservation gaming to the extent any of the players were located off Indian lands.”
The Seminole Tribe, however, is not challenged in this lawsuit from offering any sports betting at all.
“Plaintiffs recognize that the State could compact with the Tribe to permit in person sports betting by patrons physically on its reservations. However, the State cannot circumvent its own laws or federal law in an attempt to legalize off-reservation sports betting for the Tribe only.”
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