Florida Update: Seminole Tribe Appeals District Court Ruling

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The legislative process for sports betting across the United States has had its fair share of twists and turns, but nowhere has it been more unpredictable than Florida. The state and the Seminole Tribe had signed a gaming compact in which the tribe received complete control over sports betting in Florida. Still, that agreement has seen significant legal challenges levied against it. Last week, our Anthony Elio wrote about the United States District Court striking down the gaming compact. On Monday, the Seminole Tribe filed an appeal with a Washington D.C.-based appeals court, and it’s clear that this back-and-forth tug-of-war is far from over.

Brief Recap of How We Got Here

In May of 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis agreed to extend an existing gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe that included language relating to sports betting. In exchange for what would essentially become a monopoly over sports betting, the Seminole Tribe promised Florida $2.5 billion over 30 years. However, significant legal challenges needed sorting out, including lawsuits pending from local pari-mutuels arguing that the gaming compact was unconstitutional. On November 1, Florida unexpectedly launched Hard Rock Sportsbook via the Seminole Tribe despite the pending lawsuits, which drew the ire of many involved.

US District Court Nullified Gaming Compact

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On November 22, Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ruled against the gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe, citing a violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, breaching the entire agreement. Friedrich stated that “over a dozen provisions in IGRA regulate gaming on Indian lands, and none regulate gaming in another location.” Essentially, the compact allowed citizens and visitors of Florida to bet from anywhere in the state, with the Seminole Tribe having regulatory power as sports bets were processed through servers on tribal land. However, the District Court ruled that was not a feasible workaround of IGRA language.

Google Ads Shuts Down Advertising in Florida

Following Judge Friedrich’s ruling on sports betting, Hard Rock Sportsbook became unavailable via its website and app stores on mobile devices. In addition, Google Ads, Google’s online advertising platform, shut down sports gambling ads in Florida. Google Ads supports “responsible gambling advertising” as long as it abides by local gambling laws and industry standards. The ruling by Friedrich was enough for Google to deem that Florida did not meet these standards as Google will only accept sports betting advertisements for “state-licensed entities in certain states where it’s legal.”

Seminole Tribe Plans to Appeal

On Monday, the Seminole Tribe asked a Washington D.C.-based appeals court for a stay of the District Court’s ruling after initially pursuing a stay of the legislation through the District Court itself. The appeals court ordered attorneys for the two pari-mutuel facilities that had challenged the gaming compact, Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room, to respond by Tuesday. In addition, the appeals court ordered a response from the United States Department of the Interior as the defendant in the lawsuit. We expect to have more information on this appeal by Tuesday afternoon, and we’ll have you covered with the latest news in this evolving situation.

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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