x

VIDEO

Florida Rivals Ask Courts to Stop Online Sports Gambling Off Tribal Lands

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida will be raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from online sports betting this decade, thanks to a compact between the tribe and Gov. Ron DeSantis that gave the tribe exclusive rights to run sports wagers as well as casino gambling on its reservations.

But are these online wagers on the outcome of sporting events legally on tribal land, when really only the computer servers are located there, accepting bets made using mobile phones and computers from anywhere in Florida?

That’s a question two of the tribe’s gaming competitors are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will take up soon and answer with a definitive “no.”

A decision by the nation’s highest court would be of “massive importance” for the future of online gaming across the U.S., since leaving in place an appellate ruling in the tribe’s favor would set a precedent for other end-runs around state prohibitions against gaming off tribal lands, said the firms, West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation, which operate racetracks and poker rooms in Florida.

The companies sued Deb Haaland, secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, which oversees tribal gambling.

The U.S. Supreme Court accepts a tiny percentage of such petitions each year.

The two pari-mutuel firms say the compact signed by the governor and the tribe in 2021 gives the tribe a sports gambling monopoly and creates a “backdoor” way out of the state’s requirement, passed by voters in 2018 as an amendment to the Florida Constitution, that a citizens initiative is needed to expand casino gambling outside tribal land.

“Through this artifice, the Compact transparently attempts to get around the Florida Constitution,” the firms’ attorneys said. “The whole point of the Compact is to provide a hook for dodging Florida’s constitutional requirement of a popular referendum to approve off-reservation sports betting.”

A lot of money is at stake. The tribe launched its online sports betting operation late last year, and Florida’s share of 2024 revenues is already more than $120 million. State economic forecasters predict the revenue sharing from tribal gaming could total $4.4 billion through the end of this decade.

The pari-mutuel firms also sued DeSantis and leaders of the Florida Legislature, which authorized the compact, in a case pending before the Florida Supreme Court. The tribe argued the legislature has the authority to decide where online gambling is initiated and the amendment doesn’t change that.

“The 2021 Compact is an historic agreement between the Tribe and State that settled years of disputes,” the Seminole Tribe said in a court filing.

The tribe now counts about 5,000 members, descended from the Native Americans who survived in the Florida Everglades, resisting federal efforts to remove them in the 19th century. The sovereign tribe operates seven casinos across Florida and owns the Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos business, with locations in 76 countries.

Attorneys for DeSantis and the legislative leaders argue sports betting is different from casino gambling and therefore isn’t prohibited by the amendment. They also note that rivals can get in on the action — and get paid a revenue share — by allowing their customers to make online bets from their properties to the tribe’s servers.

“As an important source of revenue for both the Seminole Tribe and the State — and even the Tribe’s competitors — the 2021 compact serves the public interest and has been upheld in federal court,” attorneys for DeSantis and the legislative leaders told the state justices.

The pari-mutuel firms’ latest petition before the U.S. Supreme Court was filed Feb. 8, after an appellate panel reversed a federal district court decision in their favor. If the justices don’t weigh in, Florida’s example could inspire other states to allow tribes to expand online gaming, Daniel Wallach, a South Florida attorney and sports betting law expert said in a high court brief.

Miami resident Jason Molina started sports betting recently after he learned about it from a friend. He says he loves it and has placed bets on everything from Russian slap fighting to Korean ping pong matches.

“It’s something new to my world,” Molina said. “It’s just a way to have more on the game and be more enthusiastic about it.”

___
By MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated Press

Daniel Kozin contributed to this report from Hollywood, Florida.

RELATED

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Tornado Kills Multiple People in Iowa as Powerful Storms Again Tear Through Midwest

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — Multiple people were killed when a tornado tore through a small town in Iowa and left a wide swath of obliterated homes and crumpled cars, while the howling winds also twisted and toppled wind turbines.

WASHINGTON  — House Republicans have summoned the leaders of Northwestern University and Rutgers University to testify about concessions they gave to pro-Palestinian protesters to end demonstrations on their campus.

JERUSALEM  — A group representing the families of hostages held in Gaza has released new video footage showing Hamas’ capture of five female Israeli soldiers near the Gaza border on Oct.

HALKIDIKI – Professionals and amateur golfers from Europe, the ideal weather, the impressive golf course of Porto Carras, and the excellent facilities of Porto Carras Grand Resort, created a unique setting for the international golf tournament Porto Carras Pro-Am Aegean Mini Tour, held from May 14-18, on the peninsula of Sithonia in Halkidiki.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.