A final federal approval
Florida’s Seminole Tribe is one step closer to introducing sports betting. Federal officials have now approved a compact deal secured by Governor Ron DeSantis, paving the way for sports betting at seven casinos across the state.
DeSantis signed SB 2-A in May, authorizing the 30-year gambling pact with the Seminole. However, as with all tribal gambling legislation in the US, the bill required federal approval before it could officially become law.
billions in new revenue to benefit Floridians”
The US Department of the Interior announced its approval in a letter addressed to the governor on Friday night. The body had a 45-day window to okay the deal. In the letter, the Department confirmed that it had taken “no action to approve or dissaprove” the compact within this time limit, resulting in its approval by default.
In a statement, DeSantis described the approval as “a big deal” for the state of Florida. “This mutually-beneficial agreement will grow our economy, expand tourism and recreation and provide billions in new revenue to benefit Floridians,” he commented.
The Seminoles could begin offering retail and online sports betting as early as October 15 under the agreement.
It’s not over yet
Although the federal government’s approval has pushed the Seminole compact over the finish line from a legislative perspective, there are still a number of hurdles to cross. Lawmakers are anticipating a string of legal challenges over the controversial deal.
The first of those challenges arrived in July courtesy of parimutuel gambling operator Southwest Parimutuels. The owner of the Miami-based Magic City Casino and the poker room Bonita-Fort Myers Corp filed a lawsuit against the governor to block the deal. It argues that the compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which prohibits betting outside of tribal lands.
The lawsuit does not attempt to block sports betting altogether, just the inclusion of mobile wagering. Southwest Parimutuels has argued that the compact would allow bettors to place their wagers off the Seminole reservation. Meanwhile, betting backers claim gamblers would place wagers through servers on tribal land.
Other legal challenges
Top sportsbook operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings have also raised issue with the legality of the new compact. The deal requires the tribe to partner with a minimum of three parimutuel venues to offer betting. However, it also allows the Seminole to process all mobile bets through its own servers. As such, opponents have argued that it creates a virtual monopoly.
could open the door to new casinos
Another issue lies in a provision within the compact which could open the door to new casinos in the state. The measure prevents the Seminole from intervening if authorities issue a gambling license to any property located more than 15 miles from its Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood.
Multiple cities in Florida have taken action in response to this provision. Doral in Miami-Dade County passed legislation in June banning gambling and casinos unless approved by residents in a referendum. Meanwhile, Miami Beach has hired a law firm to prevent any attempt to introduce new casinos within its own boundaries.