Florida facing lawsuit over new Seminole gaming compact

ORLANDO, Fla. — Two Florida parimutuels have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the newly passed Seminole Indian gambling compact.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday in Northern District, takes aim at the compact’s provision for online sports betting, saying such a provision is in violation of federal law.

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In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation, allege “that the 2021 Compact and the Implementing Law unlawfully purport to authorize off-reservation sports betting by allowing anyone with a mobile phone or computer to place and collect online wagers on sporting events ‘via the internet [or] web application’ from anywhere in Florida or to place sports bets at off-reservation Florida pari-mutuels chosen by the Tribe—all without being physically present on Indian lands.”

Federal law has held that it is the location of the gambler, not the location of the computer server that dictates where gambling is taking place; the groups say because under the compact sports, bets can be made from anywhere in the state, that provision of the compact is unlawful.

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“Under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which is a federal law, all the gaming activity associated with the compact has to take place solely on the Indian land and this compact violates that federal law,” said gambling law expert Daniel Wallach. “Under the Supremacy Clause, it dictates that federal laws are superior to state laws.”

So far, the state has not responded to the case, which has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor.

Meanwhile, Deb Haaland, the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, is still reviewing the compact.

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“The filing of this lawsuit may be an attempt to influence the department of the interior to influence her that this compact violates IGRA because it allows all this gambling to be innated outside the tribal reservation,” Wallach said.

It’s unclear what would happen if the Department of the Interior rejects parts or the entirety of the compact.