Florida-Seminoles sports betting compact sees favorable US federal judge ruling

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US federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the updated Seminoles compact with Florida, which allows the tribe to launch sports betting in the state. The legal action was filed by owners of the pari-mutuels Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida, in July.

Attorneys for the Governor and state Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Julie Brown asked U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the parties did not have legal standing to challenge the compact because they had not shown they would be harmed, reports Sun Sentinel.

The pari-mutuels contended that the mobile sports betting part of the updated compact violates federal laws, illegally authorizing off-reservation sports wagering. The lawsuit claims that offering statewide online sports betting through servers on tribal lands cannot be considered equivalent to betting on tribal lands. 

It further argued that online sports betting solely controlled by the Seminoles would “cannibalize” their customer bases and cause the pari-mutuels to lose money. By excluding other businesses and giving the Seminoles the sole right to sports betting, it is being argued the state discriminated in favor of one specific tribe.

The new ruling, dismissing these claims, delivers great news both to the Seminole Tribe and Gov. Ron DeSantis. “The pari-mutuels lack standing to sue the governor or the secretary because their actions are not fairly traceable to any alleged harm,” it said.

Judge Winsor further wrote that “the requested declaratory and injunctive relief would provide no legal or practical redress to the pari-mutuels’ injuries.” He focused on two requirements to demonstrate standing in the lawsuit: an injury in fact, fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, and likely to be redressed by a favorable decision.

Winsor claims the pari-mutuels’ injuries were not traceable to Brown’s actions “because the secretary’s oversight role cannot affect the tribe’s rights to offer online sports gambling.” Moreover, Brown’s general oversight authority under the compact “does not give her authority to regulate the tribe’s conduct.”

The ruling further found the plaintiffs did not show that their potential injuries were traceable to the governor either, further reports Sun Sentinel, as it is “the compact itself that authorizes the third-party conduct the pari-mutuels want to prevent.”

The federal judge says the plaintiffs also failed to show that a judgment in their favor would remedy the potential harms they allege will occur, and that an injunction would redress their alleged injuries.

“It is not clear what the governor has to do with ‘implementing’ the sports betting provisions,” the judge wrote. “So there is no indication that an injunction against the governor would ‘significantly increase the likelihood’ that the pari-mutuels would obtain relief, ‘whether directly or indirectly.’”

Via a statement, Seminoles celebrated the ruling. “This is an important first legal victory for the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe and we look forward to future legal decisions in our favor,” said Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the tribe, Monday evening.

Through the updated compact, reached in April and ratified in May during a legislative session, bets made anywhere in the state via a mobile app or other electronic devices are deemed to be exclusively conducted by the Seminoles.

While the deal allowed the tribe to launch online sports betting since last Friday, the Seminoles didn’t begin operating this service in time. A new date for sports betting in the state has yet to be determined.

There are still two legal challenges in place attempting to stop Seminoles from launching sports betting. The pari-mutuels also filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., naming the U.S. Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland as defendants. Two South Florida businessmen also filed a separate lawsuit, in Washington, D.C.

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