Federal judge blocks Seminole Tribe sports betting gambling expansion


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP/Cap News Services) — The Seminole Tribe of Florida on Tuesday moved to appeal a federal judge’s decision to block its deal with the state to expand gambling and online sports betting throughout Florida.

The Seminole Tribe’s filing Tuesday came after a ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich that found the multibillion-dollar agreement between the state and tribe allowing online betting violated a federal rule that requires a person to be physically on tribal land when wagering.

Under the compact signed this past April, sports bets could be placed on a phone from anywhere and deemed legal as long as the servers were on tribal lands. 

The court wrote that it “cannot accept that fiction”.

“You know, elections have consequences,” said John Sowinski, founder of No Casinos Inc.

Sowinski, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the so-called ‘hub and spoke’ design was a deception.
“And in 2018 Flordia voters went to the polls and by a margin of almost 72 percent locked the key on more gambling in our state and kept it in their own hands,” Sowninski said.

In a one-sentence statement, the Seminole Tribe said it was reviewing the judge’s order and carefully considering its next step.

Gov. DeSantis speaking in Broward County on Tuesday morning said he had not yet been briefed when asked by a reporter and says he expects an appeal.

“We also knew when you do hub and spoke, it was unsettled legal issue,” Governor DeSantis said.

While the compact contains severability language that would have kept other provisions of the compact alive, the judge noted the Deptartment of Interior didn’t ask for it, so she killed the whole deal.

“The problem is the Biden administration didn’t tell the judge that, so the judge said if you’re not going to ask me to make it severable, then I’m not. And Joe Biden owns that,” State Representative Randy Fine said.

In a later statement, the Governor’s office called the ruling ‘perplexing’ and added, “It is unclear what if any immediate impact the ruling has in Florida”.

The judge ordered the Seminole Tribe to operate under the previous 2010 compact, which the state had violated by allowing parimutuels to operate so-called designated player games.

The tribe stopped paying the state $350 million a year two years ago because of the violation.

The lawsuit, filed by non-Indian casino owners in Florida, challenged the approval of the agreement by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gambling operations.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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