Some Floridians were less than shocked when US District Judge Dabney Friedrich announced her ruling on mobile sportsbooks in the state on Monday night.
The Ruling Against FL Betting
After two weeks of deliberation, the judge announced that she found the Seminole Gaming Compact to be in violation of a set of gambling laws outlined in the IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act).
Freidrich’s ruling favors south Florida’s Bonita Springs Poker Room and Magic City Casino. Representatives for the pari-mutuel facilities argued that approval for statewide mobile betting required a voter referendum.
Lawyers for The U.S. Department of Interior, the named defendant in this case, argued that the gaming software would be hosted on servers located on Seminole land.
The claims are founded on deductive reasoning that says betting hosted on servers on Seminole land qualifies as betting on sovereign land no matter where the bet was physically placed.
However, the argument could not hold up against the plaintiff’s accusations of “legal fiction.” At least not in this round.
Action Moving Forward
On Tuesday morning, the Seminole Tribe filed for an appeal. Still, it is unclear what that avenue looks like and how long it would take for the Seminole Tribe to successfully regain their mobile betting privileges.
Christian Ulvert, a spokesperson for Magic City Casino, touted Monday’s ruling as a win for pari-mutuels like their own.
“Last night’s ruling was a victory for family-owned businesses like ours who pay their fair share in taxes and believe the free market should guide the business operations of gaming venues…”
Christian Ulvert of Magic City Casino
The irony is: Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room are the state’s only pari-mutuels to boldly grind against the progress of the Seminole Tribe.
In October, the tribe signed agreements with five of the state’s pari-mutuel facilities to collaborate on mobile sportsbook operations. And less than a week before the case’s hearing, the Seminole quietly unveiled its sports betting services.
But as a result of the case, the Hard Rock Sportsbook has officially stopped accepting mobile bets. From our understanding, players are still able to withdraw any funds in their accounts.
Judge Friedrich’s ruling effectively overturns the Seminole Gaming Compact, a deal that promised the state $2.5 billion over the next five years.
The Battle Has Only Begun
For now, it seems that the state is focused on appealing the case before taking any drastic action or resuming negotiations with the Seminole Tribe.
But the issue remains complex for several reasons. One of which is that neither the state nor the tribe were named as defendants in the case.
Additionally, the state is facing pressures from several external forces. Florida Education Champions, a lobbying group funded by DraftKings and FanDuel, are aggressively vying for space in the Florida sports betting market.
The group is pushing for a ballot initiative that would allow commercial betting giants access to Florida’s massive pool of bettors.
Right now, only two things are certain:
- Politics surrounding Florida betting are about to get really messy.
- Florida bettors will have to place their NFL bets with offshore sites this Thanksgiving.