Court Order Sought To Block November Launch of Mobile Betting In Florida

September 17, 2021
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Opponents of a Florida Indian gaming compact are asking a federal court in Washington, D.C. to block the Seminole Tribe from commencing mobile sports betting as soon as November 15.

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Opponents of a Florida Indian gaming compact are asking a federal court in Washington, D.C. to block the Seminole Tribe from commencing mobile sports betting as soon as November 15.

A hearing on the request is scheduled for 10am on November 5 in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Pari-mutuel interests in Florida made the request in a motion submitted on Tuesday to the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia as part of one of two lawsuits against the groundbreaking Seminole Compact.

The pari-mutuel companies claim they will suffer “substantial irreparable harm if the online sports betting provision of the compact is not preliminarily enjoined or permanently set aside prior to November 15, 2021, when plaintiffs contend the online sports betting provisions of the Compact are currently scheduled to become operational.”

The plaintiffs — both based in Miami — are West Flagler Associates, which owns Magic City Casino, and Bonita Springs Poker Room.

Their attorney, who filed this week’s motion, is Hamish P.M. Hume who works in the Washington, D.C. office of the national law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner.

David Boies, who argued unsuccessfully before the U.S. Supreme Court for Al Gore in the disputed presidential race of 2000, founded the firm in 1997 in New York City.

“An exact launch date for mobile sports betting in Florida has not been announced,” Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the Seminole Tribe, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Thursday.

On August 31, attorneys for the tribe submitted a court motion of their own in the federal court for the Northern District of Florida seeking to dismiss the two pari-mutuel operators' separate but related lawsuits against the compact.

The Seminole Tribe argues it is “an indispensable party” in the lawsuit in Florida, which has been filed against the administration of Governor Ron DeSantis, but cannot be involved in court proceedings because of the tribe’s sovereign immunity.

Hence, the Seminoles insist, the lawsuit must be dismissed.

‘The tribe expects to realize profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars from sports betting over the life of the 2021 compact and those profits would be lost if the challenged provisions are invalidated,” the tribe said in its motion to dismiss.

West Flagler Associates and Bonita Springs Poker Room are suing Florida's governor on grounds that he approved a compact that violated federal laws, including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and the Wire Act.

In the District of Columbia, the named defendant is U.S. interior secretary Deb Haaland, whose department in August declined to reject the compact within a 45-day window established by IGRA.

Among other things, the two pari-mutuel operators argue that IGRA does not allow the Seminole Tribe to accept mobile sports wagers from players throughout Florida even though those bets would be accepted at servers on the tribe's Indian lands.

Also, on August 31, lawyers representing Governor DeSantis filed a motion to dismiss the Florida lawsuit on grounds that the lawsuit failed to name the Seminoles as a party to the case and defended the compact's provisions on online sports betting as being legal under IGRA and other federal laws.

“The parties to the compact properly utilized IGRA’s jurisdiction allocation provisions to deem all online sports betting wagers to occur on the tribe’s Indian lands, and thus IGRA authorizes the gaming activity,” wrote DeSantis' attorneys in the court filing.

Bob Jarvis, a professor who teaches gaming law at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, predicted both federal lawsuits against the compact will fail.

“Because the Interior Department already has given its tacit approval to the compact, no court is going to go against the department’s determination that the compact is valid, and if they do, they’ll swiftly be overturned on appeal,” Jarvis said.

Beyond the two lawsuits already filed, the Florida anti-gambling group No Casinos also plans to go to court to stop the Seminole Compact.

“Legal action against the compact by casino expansion opponents will be forthcoming in the near future,” John Sowinski, president of No Casinos, said Thursday.

No Casinos also is opposing efforts by DraftKings and FanDuel to put an initiative to authorize online sports betting operated by commercial sportsbook companies on the Florida ballot in 2022.

DraftKings and FanDuel must obtain 891,589 valid signatures by February 1, 2022, to certify the sports-betting initiative on the November 8 ballot.

“Very few signatures have been certified by either initiative group seeking gambling expansion in Florida,” Sowinski said, referencing both the DraftKings-FanDuel sports-betting effort, as well as a separate ballot petition to permit land-based casino expansion supported by Las Vegas Sands.

“With a February 1 certification deadline and local Supervisors of Elections having 30 days to verify petition signatures, we have always viewed the practical deadline for completion as December 31st.”

DraftKings and FanDuel did not immediately respond on Thursday to inquiries about how many signatures have been collected so far.

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