Category Archives: Court Case/Decision

Editorial: [Florida] Court ruling a wake-up call for better approach to gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on recent efforts to expand gambling through the Seminole gambling compact.  Most coverage has been on the widespread online sports gambling expansion, but it also allows for additional gambling expansion.  A recent court case invalidated the compact and the following guest editorial from the Palm Beach Post highlights lessons learned and the importance of following the established constitutional model for any gambling expansion:

On Nov. 22, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ordered the U.S. Department of Interior to throw out the 2021 gaming compact Gov. Ron DeSantis reached with the tribe. The judge apparently shared the misgivings of many of the compact’s critics, who saw the deal as a way around the Florida Constitution and federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, to expand gambling in Florida. The ruling not only halts online betting but blocks the tribe’s planned Hard Rock Casino expansions.

The judge made clear he didn’t buy the argument that the tribe could host online sports statewide as long as the servers taking the bets were located on tribal grounds. While recognizing the language of federal law, the judge also upheld the will of Florida voters who amended the state constitution to give them greater say over gambling expansion. 

The ruling puts the state back to square one. Instead of operating under a gaming compact that would give the state $2.5 billion over five years, Florida finds itself under a 20-year compact reached in 2010 when Charlie Crist was governor. The judge’s order doesn’t foreclose online sports betting in Florida but any new compact must limit online betting to Indian lands. The only way those bets can be expanded statewide is through a citizen’s initiative approved by Florida voters.

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Florida appeals Seminole Compact Ruling – No Casinos Joins Fight against Unconstitutional Expansion

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling through online sports gambling efforts in Florida.  Their constitution required a vote of the people to expand gambling, but a deal negotiated between the Florida government and Seminole Tribe added sports gambling to the compact and allowed for online gambling as well.  They claimed as long as the online servers were on tribal land, anyone could use the online app, thus creating legalized online sports gambling for the entire state.  A federal judge rejected the compact and called the notion “fiction.”  The appeal has been filed and No Casinos has joined the legal fight to help keep the issue suppressedAn online source reports:

No Casinos and a group of south Florida businessmen have joined the legal fight to defend a district court ruling striking down the 30-year gambling compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the State of Florida. The Seminole Tribe is appealing the ruling and seeks an immediate stay, which would allow it to legally continue the first-in-Florida sports betting operations it launched on Nov. 1. The compact also authorized the tribe to build new casinos on its property and to offer games such as craps and roulette that were previously illegal in Florida.

John Sowsinki, president of No Casinos, told the Phoenix in a statement provided Tuesday that the tribe should immediately stop its sports-betting operations, which he considers “illegal gambling.” He noted the tribe chose to launch Florida’s first-ever statewide sports betting operation on Nov. 1 despite ongoing litigation and has not halted it despite Judge Friedrich’s order.

Further, No Casinos, Codina, Carr and Braman want sports betting and other gambling expansions authorized in the gambling compact to be shut down permanently – except as may be authorized in the future by Florida voters, as required by the 2018 constitutional amendment titled “Voter Control of Gambling,” then known as Amendment 3.

Their amici brief, filed late Tuesday, urges the appellate court to affirm the district court’s order striking down the compact and to deny the tribe’s request for a stay in the interim.

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UPDATE: Federal Judge Rules Against Florida Seminole Sports Gambling Provision, Calling the State’s Argument ‘Fiction’

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida via the Seminole Gambling Compact.  The problem has been the plan calls for online sports betting and claims that anyone in the state can use their app and gamble on sports even though sports gambling is very much not legalized in the state.  Their argument has been that as long as the servers are on tribal land, then the gambler doesn’t have to be at the casino.  A Federal Judge has reviewed the case and despite what some thought would be a simple political push through, has approved the injunction and shut the deal down.  The Miami Herald reports:

In a stunning rejection of Florida’s attempt to give the Seminole Tribe a monopoly on sports betting, a federal district court judge in the District of Columbia ruled late Monday that the compact violates federal Indian gaming law and invalidated the entire agreement, halting all sports betting and gaming expansion in Florida indefinitely.

The ruling by Judge Dabney L. Friedrich puts a halt on the sports betting quietly launched by the Seminole Tribe on Nov. 1 and, in a double hit, it also blocks the tribe’s Hard Rock casinos in Broward and Hillsborough counties from becoming full Las Vegas-style casinos.

“Although the Compact ‘deem[s]’ all sports betting to occur at the location of the Tribe’s ‘sports book[s]‘ and supporting servers … this Court cannot accept that fiction,’’ Friedrich wrote. “When a federal statute authorizes an activity only at specific locations, parties may not evade that limitation by ‘deeming’ their activity to occur where it, as a factual matter, does not.”

Judge Friedrich ordered Florida to revert back to the prior compact and outlined the path for sports betting to either be on Tribal land or statewide through a vote of the people.  Many believed politics would prevent such an obvious and clear understanding of federal gambling law, but this decision is a positive first step.  The state is likely to appeal, but its a major victory for those fighting against such gambling expansion.  The Miami Herald continues:

The decision is a victory for the owners of Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room and a group of plaintiffs that includes No Casinos and Miami businessmen Armando Codina and Norman Braman. They each filed separate lawsuits against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland alleging that the federal government improperly approved the gaming compact.

Codina and Braman have fought to block gaming expansion for decades and helped finance the successful 2018 constitutional amendment that requires that any expansion of gambling be approved by voters in a statewide referendum.

“I think this is a big victory. I couldn’t ask for more,’’ said Codina, a real estate developer and devoted gambling opponent. He said he will continue to fight if the state and tribe file an appeal.

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UPDATE: One of the Three Lawsuits filed Against the Florida/Seminole Compact regarding Online Sports Betting Dismissed after President Biden’s Administration Intervenes 

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent lawsuits filed against the Florida Seminole Online Sports betting plan. As the Sun Sentinel reported, the Biden Administration made known that they wanted the federal case dismissed that was filed by two parimutuel companies, claiming they didn’t have standing to sue and couldn’t prove irreparable harm.  It appears the move by the Biden Administration paid off as the Sun Sentinel is now reporting that the judge has dismissed that particular case:  

Dealing a win to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe, a federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging a gambling agreement that allows the tribe to have control over sports betting in Florida.

Attorneys for DeSantis and state Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Julie Brown asked U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the pari-mutuels did not have legal standing to challenge the compact because they had not shown they will be harmed.  In a 20-page ruling Monday, Winsor, who wryly noted that the pari-mutuels “are not pleased with the compact,” agreed with the state’s arguments.

The compact allowed the tribe to offer online sports betting beginning Friday, but the Seminoles haven’t launched the operation. The legal challenge tossed by Winsor on Monday was one of three federal lawsuits challenging the compact. The Havenick family has owned the pari-mutuel facilities in the Florida case for more than five decades. It also filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., naming the U.S. Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland as defendants.Two prominent South Florida businessmen and the anti-gambling organization No Casinos have filed a separate lawsuit in Washington, D.C.

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Sports Betting Can Begin Oct 15th in Florida, but Experts Say its Unlikely

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Florida Seminole Compact that has offered exclusive sports betting by the Tribe.  Exclusivity for payment to the state of Florida is not new, however, sports betting certainly is and many believe its illegal.  Several lawsuits have been filed on different levels, but the general issue is that because the sports betting is online, and not just on a tribal casino, its new gambling that has to be voted on by the people in Florida, as anyone in the state could access sports gambling without needing to be on tribal land.  The Compact establishes an October 15th start date, but experts don’t believe a formal launch will happen for a month, if at all.  The Orlando Sentinel reports:

Florida sports fans looking to place their first legal bets on games this weekend will have to wait a little longer. And if opponents who have filed three lawsuits eventually win in court, such bets could be off the table. Wagers on sporting events are legal on Seminole Tribe lands starting Friday, and the Tribe has plans to offer an app to allow residents to place bets that flow through a server on their land. But those plans won’t be in place for at least another month and perhaps longer.

The Tribe received a monopoly on sports betting through its new compact with the state, which was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in April and passed by the Legislature in a May special session.

It received federal regulatory approval in August, but three lawsuits are challenging the agreement, which argue it violates federal and state law and shouldn’t take effect.

No Casinos, an Orlando-based group and two South Florida businessmen, car dealer Norman Braman and developer Armando Codina filed suit in the Washington, D.C., District Court last month. Among the arguments, the lawsuit claims the compact violates a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018 requiring new expansions of casino gambling to be approved by voters.

“They can’t do that without a vote of the people,” No Casinos president John Sowinski said. Sowinski is confident his group will win in court and said the Tribe could lose out if it makes investments to take advantage of sports betting that he believes will be deemed illegal by the courts.“The Tribe probably realize that they proceed at their own risk in terms of venture capital and whatever is expended  he courts make a determination on this,” Sowinski said.

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A Public Destruction of Missouri’s Illegal Gambling Machines After Prosecution Makes Statement

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga involving the enforcement of illegal slot machines in Missouri.  Given the necessity of local prosecutors to lead the charge, a big victory and statement was made earlier in Jefferson City.  Not only were these gambling machines found to be illegal, they were ordered to be publicly destroyed.  A local online source reports:

When the bucket of the backhoe came down on the first of five illegal gambling machines destroyed Thursday by court order, it crumpled like a cardboard box being prepped for recycling.

The particle board sides offered no resistance to the pressure, and in about 40 seconds, all that remained was a pile of wood, plastic and electronic shards as the five machines were shattered into thousands of pieces.

“This is a good day,” said Eric Zahnd, Platte County prosecutor. “There is a good reason that the Missouri Legislature said these should be publicly destroyed. It is somewhat about the spectacle of destruction because the legislature wanted to send a message that these machines won’t be tolerated in the state of Missouri. It is a good day.”

The Platte County prosecution showed that no additional laws are needed, Zahnd said before the smashing began Thursday.

“In Missouri, the law is clear,” Zahnd said. “These machines are illegal and they must be destroyed.”

Sgt. Craig Hubbell, a detective with the the Parkville Police Department, looks over the debris from the destruction Thursday of five illegal gambling machines. (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent)

“I just hope this example will be picked up by the other prosecutors in the state,” he said. “They are not gray-market machines. They are black-market machines.”

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Guest Article:  Editorial: Florida gaming deal goes to court. One verdict is in: Lawmakers’ contempt for voters

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing sports betting saga taking place in Florida and today’s guest article on this matter is an editorial by Florida’s Finger Lake Times:  

Two Miami business leaders went to court this week in Washington, D.C., in an effort to stop the expansion of gambling in Florida — and to stand up for voters, since the Legislature and governor are doing just the opposite.

Developer Armando Codina and auto retailer Norman Braman, two of the state’s fiercest and most well-heeled gambling opponents, filed suit — along with the group No Casinos — against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. The suit accuses the federal government of allowing the state to circumvent the Florida Constitution when it approved a new gaming deal this year — including off-reservation sports betting — with the Seminole Tribe. The suit also contends that Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature violated federal laws by authorizing gambling outside of Indian lands, among other claims.

We believe there’s little doubt that lawmakers and gambling interests crafted the deal precisely to get around the 2018 constitutional amendment that voters approved — by an unheard-of 72% — that specified the electorate must determine if there are more casinos in Florida…

Unless the courts stop this deal, more casino gambling will be allowed at existing facilities. The Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock casinos in Broward and Hillsborough counties would be able to morph into full Las Vegas-style casinos with the addition of roulette and craps. No Casinos calls this the biggest gambling expansion in Florida history.

Yet, that’s not all. Even more alarming is the part of the deal where the Seminole Tribe says it won’t object to any new casino license as long as it’s at least 18 miles from its Hard Rock Casino near Hollywood.

Guess what? Both the Fontainebleau hotel and resort in Miami Beach and Trump’s National Doral Miami golf resort — both have indicated they would like to see a new law that would let them transfer a gambling license from an existing parimutuel to their properties — fall conveniently outside that magic 18-mile boundary line.

As Codina told the Herald, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how this movie is ending.”

Agreed.

The full article can be read HERE

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New Lawsuit filed to block Florida’s Oct 15th Sports Betting Expansion

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent sports betting legalization in Florida by means of its new Seminole Gambling Compact, and on the subsequent opposition.  A pair of Florida parimutuel companies have been leading the legal charge against Florida and the Seminole Gambling compact they entered into with the Tribe.  The issue, of course, stems from the inappropriate sports gambling expansion that will take place off reservation, gambling that requires the express consent of the Florida voters before it can be enacted.  The argument has been if the location of the online servers being on tribal land is enough to call it tribal gambling, or if the fact that anyone in the state having access to this gambling subjects it to constitutional voter approval.  Florida has moved forward with its plans to initiate and regulate sports gambling and have set Oct 15th as the date.  A new lawsuit by the same companies essentially seeks an injunction to hold off such gambling until the lawsuits can be heard.  The Miami-Herald explains:

Two Florida pari-mutuels filed a new motion in federal district court in Washington late Tuesday, asking a judge to block implementation of online sports betting under the Florida tribal gaming compact which is scheduled to begin later this year.

The motion, filed by Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, asks a court to enjoin the sports-betting portion of the state’s compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The plaintiffs allege that although the Department of the Interior allowed the compact to take effect, the court should reverse that decision and block implementation until a legal sports-betting compact is established for Florida.

Although the Florida statute sets an Oct. 15 start date for tribal sports betting, a footnote in the lawsuit states that “representatives of the Tribe have informed Plaintiffs that the Tribe will not implement online sports betting until November 15, 2021.”

The court has scheduled a Nov. 5 hearing date to hear oral arguments on the Magic City motion for summary judgment with the goal of blocking the launch of online sports betting in Florida.

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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt Returns Political Contributions from Illegal Gambling Machine Manufacturers Owners Amid Controversy

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of Missouri’s illegal slot machine problem.  Gambling, specifically casino style slot machine gambling, is limited to state regulated casinos in Missouri, but that hasn’t stopped companies like Torch Electronics from placing thousands of illegal slot machines all over the state.  They have used many methods for keeping their illegal gambling machine operating, including taking advantage of enforcement loopholes where the state gaming commission cant regulate them and local law enforcement jurisdictions are left to clean up the illegal slot machines.  Other tactics include attempting to sue those prosecuting them  and political contributions in hopes of controlling the legislature or the courts.  Many have called for immediate state action to provide the proper enforcement tools for uniform restriction, confiscation and prosecution of those machines and the operators and manufactures.  Amid the controversy, some have been called out as possibly being put in a compromised situation due to political contributions, specifically Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.  The St Louis Post Dispatch reports:

Attorney General Eric Schmitt is returning campaign contributions he received more than two months ago from the owner of a controversial video gambling company and his wife.

Schmitt, a Republican running for U.S. Senate in 2022, received two $2,900 checks in June from Steven Miltenberger, owner of Wildwood-based Torch Electronics, and his spouse, Sondra Miltenberger.

Torch has been in court in recent months for allegedly operating thousands of illegal slot machines at gas stations across the state. The company also is suing the state, saying it is being unfairly harassed by the Missouri Highway Patrol.

The announcement that the money was being jettisoned came after the Post-Dispatch asked the attorney general’s office if the contribution could be considered a conflict of interest because of the state’s involvement in litigation against Miltenberger’s company.

“There was no violation of office policy, but out of an abundance of caution, it’s my understanding that the donation is going to be returned,” Schmitt spokesman Chris Nuelle said Friday. “We will remain active in our vigorous defense of the state’s interest in this case.”

A spokesman for Schmitt’s campaign confirmed the contributions have been returned.

Schmitt is among dozens of Missouri politicians who have received money connected to Miltenberger in recent years as unregulated slot machines have flooded the state.

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Another Florida Seminole Compact Lawsuit has been file, the second for Magic City Casino & Bonita Springs Poker Room

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing events and litigation of the newly approved Florida Gambling Compact.  Most of the controversy has focused on online gambling via mobile sports betting and the lack of popular vote to make it legal in Florida, which was indeed the focus of two parimutuel casinos lawsuits in July.  However, after the official approval, one of the parimutuel companies, Magic City Casino, is pushing forward with another lawsuit.  The Miami Herald explains this new national angle:

Upping the ante in the courts, two parimutuel facilities have filed a second federal lawsuit challenging a 30-year gambling agreement reached by Gov. Ron DeSantis that gives the Seminole Tribe control over sports betting throughout Florida.

The latest legal challenge, filed Monday in Washington, D.C., came less than two weeks after the U.S. Department of the Interior signed off on a gambling “compact” negotiated by DeSantis and passed by the Florida Legislature in May.

Owners of Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida contend in the lawsuit that the sports-betting plan violates federal laws and will cause a “significant and potentially devastating” impact on their businesses.

[C]alling Florida’s sports-betting model a “legal fiction,” the parimutuels’ lawsuits maintain that federal law does not authorize bets that occur off tribal lands.

“Through this fiction, the compact and implementing law seek to expand sports betting outside of Indian lands to individuals located anywhere in Florida so long as they have a computer and internet connection — subject only to the tribe’s monopoly,” lawyers for the parimutuels wrote in Monday’s 43-page lawsuit, which names as defendants Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and her agency.

Part of the argument being made in court, is how the agreement was approved, or rather, not specifically approved.  The option existed to outright approve the agreement, but instead, no approval, or denial was given, thus allowing the agreement to de facto stand after 45 days. This was cited as being the result of known lack of federal authority to allow the spoke and hub gambling model.  The Miami Herald continued:

“Although Secretary Haaland could have approved a compact between Florida and the tribe to permit in-person or online sports betting by patrons physically on the tribe’s reservations, the plain language of IGRA prevents her from approving the compact here because it does not comply with IGRA’s ‘Indian lands’ requirement. The compact therefore both violates IGRA and falls outside the scope of compacts she is authorized to approve in the first instance,” the parimutuels’ lawyers wrote.

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Congressional attempts to redefine Tribal Gambling to allow Florida Gambling Compact Underway

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to pass a legal gambling compact in Florida with the Seminole Tribe, however, the new mobile sports betting provision has sparked opposition and now formal lawsuits to stop such action. Federal law allows for tribal gambling, but there are limitations and the current regulatory language and legal precedent are fairly clear that tribal gambling must be on tribal land, making online or mobile gambling outside of the legal purview if the gambling in question is not legal in the state where mobile/internet gamblers could be located.  The Florida Seminole compact is facing two current lawsuits and is under review by the Federal Government, but two Congressional lawmakers are taking action to quickly change federal tribal gambling regulation to allow the Seminole Compact to circumvent the lawsuits and the Florida constitution.  An online source reports:

Two congressmen have filed legislation that would seek to help more tribal casinos implement online gaming. US Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) issued a statement into the Congressional Record  Thursday to introduce HR 4308 

“This bill would clarify that, for purposes of tribal government gaming, the location of the wager occurs at the location of the server, unless a state and Indian tribe otherwise agree,” Correa said in his remarks.

“Making this clarification will keep intact the current system of tribal gaming and eliminate any frivolous litigation.”

The bill announcement occurred one day before a federal lawsuit was filed in Florida. That lawsuit seeks to stop the amended tribal gaming compact that would give the Seminole Tribe exclusive statewide mobile sports betting rights in that state.

It’s unclear how successful this blatant attempt to circumvent pending litigation and the Florida constitution will be given the time frame, but this isn’t the first time online-type tribal federal legislation has been filed.  However, those attempts have all failed.  Those attempts were more broad in scope, but still couldn’t receive the support needed.  Time will tell if this avenue impacts the current course of the Seminole compact.  

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Florida Sports Betting Legalization through Seminole Gambling Compact Officially Challenged via Lawsuits

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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Florida Legislature Approves Seminole Gambling Compact, Legalizing Mobile Sports Betting, and Many in Florida aren’t Happy

Casino Watch Focus has reported closely followed the recent advancement of the Seminole Gambling Compact and its inclusion of mobile sports betting.  The issue at stake is the legislator attempting to expand gamblining in violation of the Florida constitution, which requires a vote of the people to approve new gambling.  With the writing on the wall, many have made their positions known and now its all but official, as the Compact has passed the legislature and simply needs Gov. DeSantis’ signature, which will be forthcoming.  Not all believe it will pass, and many are speaking out.  The Orlando Sentinel’s Editorial Board outlined the opposition position:

The Florida Legislature just passed a gambling law they /know/ has a good chance of being struck down in court, or at least the sports betting part of the law that got the most attention.

You don’t have to believe us. Take it from state Rep. Randy Fine, who led the House Select Committee on Gaming and said this about sports betting after the bill passed: “Me personally, I don’t think it’s going to survive.”

The reason Fine made such an extraordinary concession on the House floor is because of the high likelihood that, under Florida’s constitution, sports betting needs to be approved by Florida’s voters, not elected legislators.

He didn’t say it, but there’s also a decent chance the bill’s legalization of craps and roulette games at Florida’s existing casinos also will be challenged in court and found unconstitutional. Same for the part that lays the groundwork for transferring gambling licenses from race tracks to other locations.

The problem in this case is that both sides seemed to ignore the clear language of the Florida Constitution, with some clearly just moving the bill along assuming that the courts would take care of the issue.  The lack of serious debate around the constitutionality of the issue has also brought the ire of those who believe the will of the constitution and the people shouldn’t be disregarded in such a cavalier manner.  The Editorial Board continues:

In 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment — by a remarkable 71.5% margin — that gave voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.” That means putting the question of additional gambling in front of the voters and letting /them/ say yes or no.

The language of that amendment clearly states the referendum requirement applies to what’s known as Class III gambling, and sports betting is defined under federal law as Class III gambling. So are craps and roulette. So, these things need voter approval to become part of Florida’s gambling landscape.

That single, central issue should have been a hotly debated point of this week’s three-day special session to approve a new gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe. In an astonishing display of bipartisan disregard for the will of Florida’s voters, the House passed gambling expansion Wednesday by an overwhelming vote of 97-17 with loads of Democrats jumping on the Republican-led bandwagon. Tuesday’s Senate vote was even more lopsided: 38-1. The lone no vote came from Pinellas County Republican Jeff Brandes.

Is it any wonder the public is so cynical about politics? Were voters really not clear in 2018 about what they wanted? What the governor and Legislature have done is cooked up a deal they know is constitutionally suspect, and now the courts will have to clean up the mess they’ve made.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Sports Betting in Florida via Seminole Compact to be Challenged in Court upon Passage, but can a Challenge Survive the Politics of the Deal?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the efforts to pass a new Seminole gambling compact in Florida and on the various attempts to legalize sports betting.  Now, the new Seminole compact has become the avenue for sports betting and if ratified by the Florida legislature in a special session, would become legal in the state.  Should that happen, legal challenges are essentially guaranteed.  The issue at hand is that sports betting would not simply be offered on Seminole property, which could be argued isn’t Florida proper and thus not under the recently passed Amendment 3 which requires all new gambling to be approved by a vote of the people, but instead all over the state via mobile gambling.  At that point it’s fairly clear that the gambling is happening in Florida and thus subject to a vote of the people prior to becoming low.  As previously explained, the State believes that because the servers for the mobile gambling are on tribal lands, its not in Florida.  However, as previously reported, a federal lawsuit regarding a similar issue in California concluded that gambling must be legal both where it originates and where the person gambling is located.  No Casinos, who released an ad campaign reminding everyone of the law, outlines why they plan to bring a legal challenge and why its argument is backed by various laws.  An online source explains:

No Casinos argues the arrangement runs counter to a couple of federal laws.

The Federal Wire Act holds, Sowinski said, “that a telephonic or electronic or online transaction of any sort occurs in two places: the place where the person originating the transaction is and the place where the person receiving the transaction is. It has to be legal in both of those places in order to be a legal transaction. That includes gambling, as well.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act holds that tribes can’t offer games not otherwise legal within a state. The compact would legalize sports betting on the Seminole land, Sowinski acknowledged, but he insisted allowing play statewide implicates Amendment 3 and would require a statewide referendum.

“The Legislature doesn’t have the authority to authorize that today within the state, and therefore, according to federal law, they can’t negotiate to put that on the tribal land,” Sowinski said.

The concern, of course, is that the language that allows for negotiations of a gambling compact in the first place, supersedes the provisions in those particular laws.  If that part of the argument does produce a court ruling that pushes that provision to the people for a vote, it’s believed that the case would be appealed, and then the local and national politics of the deal come into play.  If that’s the case, the federal precedent established in the federal case in CA requiring that the gambling in question must take place where both parties have the legal ability to do so, might not be much help in the end.  The source concludes:

Even if a trial judge buys the No Casino argument, the state could appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which is packed with Donald Trump appointees (including two DeSantis had earlier placed on the Florida Supreme Court but whom Trump promoted), will certainly overrule, Jarvis predicted.

“And the U.S. Supreme Court, of course, is a Trump-appointed court. Trump has made it clear that he wants this deal. DeSantis has made it clear that he wants this deal.”

Federal agencies too, including the Department of the Interior (DOI), headed by Native American Deb Haaland, and its Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), also are going to accept the deal, he predicts.

The California case set federal precedent and the newly passed Florida Amendment 3 to the constitution shows clear intent by the voters to want to approve new gambling in the state, which would clearly include mobile sports betting.  Most believe the compact will get ratified, so time will tell how the legal challenges will shake out.  

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‘No Casino’ Group’s New Ad Campaign Reminds Politicians and the Florida Public who gets the Final vote in Sports Betting – Pointing out one of the biggest issues with the new Seminole Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to solidify a new Seminole Compact.  The agreement addressed many exclusivity deals that help regulate and prevent gambling expansion in Florida.  However, many have seen this as an opportunity to include sports betting, which while giving exclusive rights to the Seminole Casinos, would also be a new form of gambling and one that the Florida constitution expressly requires a vote of the people to become law.  The state is trying to circumvent the constitution, but No Casino group has released an ad campaign to remind them of the law.  Florida Politics reports:

No Casinos is launching a new statewide ad campaign to warn Floridians about the new Seminole Compact, which opens sports betting the group says illegally expands gambling in violation of the Florida Constitution.

The Orlando-based anti-gambling group argues the deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis late last month and could be finalized during a Special Legislative Session starting May 17, lets “politicians and gambling lobbyists, instead of voters, authorize a massive expansion of gambling” in the Sunshine State. “Not politicians. Not lobbyists. You,” the ad leads off. “That’s the law. But gambling lobbyists want politicians to break it.”

No Casinos specifically cite the Amendment 3 constitutional mandate passed in 2018 by 72% of Florida voters. The amendment gives Floridians “the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.”

The sports betting provision isn’t limited to the casinos either, but instead allows for mobile gambling all over the state.  This is the very type of gambling expansion that No Casinos contends the Florida constitution is designed to prevent without the express approval of voters.  Florida Politics explains:

Despite that explicit provision, the group says an expansion of sports betting could turn every cellphone into a “slot machine.”

“Their plan: Casinos. Sports betting. Even slot machines on cell phones,” the ad continues. “It’ll be like ‘internet cafes’ all over again.” The only thing missing? Your approval,” the ad concludes with a call to action. “Voter approval of gambling is the law. Tell your legislator: Don’t break it.”

“Voters were crystal clear that they wanted the final say on gambling expansion in Florida, and we’re letting them know that this proposed compact is a blatant violation of the constitution and the will of the people,” No Casinos President John Sowinski said in a statement. The ad — titled “People, Not Politicians” — will run both online and on cable TV in key markets statewide.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION