A federal judge on Monday night threw out completely the amended gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and state officials, stopping – for now – statewide mobile sports betting, which the tribe launched three weeks ago.
US District Judge Dabney Friedrich chose to nullify the entire compact, which gave the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to online and retail sports betting in the state. It also means the Seminole Gaming will not be allowed to offer roulette and dice games at its tribal casinos in the state.
Two pari-mutuel operators filed the lawsuit in the District of Columbia federal court three months ago claiming that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland should not have approved the Florida deal because it violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the 33-year-old federal law that oversees tribal gaming across the country.
The federal government had 45 days after the state submitted the compact to review it and decide whether to approve it. As Interior officials noted in a letter to both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe Chairman Marcellus Osceola, when that window passed without an official approval or denial, it then deemed approved to the extent it abided by IGRA.
The principal concern of the Magic City Casino and the Bonita Springs Poker Room dealt with the federal approval that allowed the Seminole Tribe to accept sports bets off its tribal land. Not only did that include mobile sports betting but it also included the approval of a “hub-and-spoke” concept where the Seminole Tribe would partner with pari-mutuel operators that would host kiosks at their establishments.
In her 25-page opinion, Friedrich said the compact authorized gaming on and off tribal lands.
“The Compact accordingly violates IGRA’s “Indian lands” requirement, which means that the Secretary had an affirmative duty to reject it,” she wrote.
Friedrich’s ruling will likely be appealed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
Representatives from Seminole Gaming and the Department of the Interior did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment late Monday evening.
This story will be updated.
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