Florida Clears First Major Hurdle as District Judge Dismisses Lawsuit

Florida

Florida cleared its first major hurdle in its path towards sports betting on Monday as a U.S. district judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the gambling compact agreed upon between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe. I previously wrote about how the Florida sports betting launch was set to be delayed by several weeks, but this development marks a significant step in the right direction.

Who Filed the Lawsuit and Why?

The lawsuit that was dismissed on Monday was filed by West Flagler Associates on behalf of the owners of the pari-mutuels Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida. These entities claimed that allowing individuals to place sports bets while not on tribal property represented a violation of federal laws. West Flagler Associates claimed the compact between DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe violated a handful of laws including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Wire Act, and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

Pari-mutuel betting, also known as pool betting, is a form of gambling where you place wagers against other bettors on specific games rather than against the house. Pari-mutuel betting has become quite popular in states that have not yet launched legal sports betting, but its success is put in jeopardy by the prospect of individuals being able to place wagers from a mobile device anywhere in the state.

What Was the Ruling?

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor was called upon by various attorneys and Julie Brown, appointed by DeSantis to be the Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, to make a ruling on the West Flagler Associates Lawsuit. Windsor filed a 20-page ruling on Monday stating that the pari-mutuels don’t have legal standing to sue the governor or the secretary “because their actions are not fairly traceable to any alleged harm.”

Winsor also said that the plaintiffs did not show how a favorable judgment would remedy the potential harms they allegedly face as a declaration against the governor would bind the state but would “not bind the tribe” which would have “no obligation to recognize any declaration’s legal effect.” In other words, the tribe could “continue business as usual – to the pari-mutuels’ continued detriment” regardless of the result of the lawsuit.

Florida Isn’t Done Facing Lawsuits

Gary Bitner, a spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe, was very excited about Winsor’s dismissing of the West Flagler Associates lawsuit as he said “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.” Bitner and other invested parties will be anxiously awaiting November 5 when a lawsuit filed against Deb Haaland, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, will be heard. The Havenick family, owner of pari-mutuel facilities in Florida for the past several decades, filed the lawsuit in an effort to prove that the “deemed approval of the compact by the federal agency was arbitrary and capricious, or otherwise not in conformity with the law” according to Daniel Wallach, principal at Wallach Legal.

In addition to the pending D.C. lawsuit, the anti-gambling organization No Casinos, founded by former Florida Governor Reubin Askew in 1970, is also filing a lawsuit in an effort to stop sports betting from being introduced to the Florida market. DraftKings and FanDuel are also attempting their own ballot initiative for sports betting in 2022. We’re far from a final conclusion on the future of sports betting in Florida and the Lineups team will continue to have the latest information for you as we head towards a hopeful launch in the coming months.

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. As the United States embarks on an exciting journey towards the legalization of sports betting, I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to cover industry news, NFL and NBA odds, and more.

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