On Friday, two parties were given until Tuesday to submit a brief. Attorneys for the Department of the Interior and the Interior Secretary, need to justify why an agreement made between the Seminoles and the state, enabling sports betting off tribal lands, also through online accounts, complies with the IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act).
After almost two hours of hearing, Judge Dabney Friedrich (US District) publicly stated her dissatisfaction with the responses – or lack thereof – she received from US Department of Justice attorney Rebecca Ross, representing the government.
The government's refusal to follow the judge's briefing timetable nearly two months ago was the source of those frustrations. Judge Dabney Friedrich asked several times whether the government saw online betting as taking place on tribal land in the last part of the hearing. Friedrich cut Ross off when she started talking about the "unique nature", saying it was a straightforward yes or no question that she couldn't answer.
The operators of the Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room said they were assured Seminole Gaming will start online sports betting on Nov. 15, and Friedrich said she will try to issue her verdict by that date. She would not, however, guarantee it.
Last week, the Seminoles launched mobile sports betting.
According to Hard Rock Sportsbook's website, online sports betting began in Florida last week with an "Early Access Launch."
The gaming compact signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Marcellus Osceola Jr. - Seminole Chairman - earlier this year, as well as the state legislature's approval, authorized sports betting in the state and granted the tribe total authority. In exchange, the tribe has agreed to pay the state $2.5 billion over the next five years and $6 billion by 2030.
The compact allows the tribe to offer state-wide mobile sports betting and cooperate with pari-mutuel operators to put kiosks in their venues across the state, in addition to retail sportsbooks at the Seminole and Hard Rock casinos.
Southwest Florida Enterprises, which owns Magic City and Bonita Springs, has filed cases in federal court against state and federal officials. Last month, a federal court in Florida rejected the complaint against Florida officials.
The plaintiffs contend that the IGRA prohibits online betting and limits gaming to tribal lands. Because sports betting is banned in Florida, the Seminole Tribe's online application may cause them to go out of business. They are seeking either a summary judgment in their favor or an injunction to prevent elements of the sports betting legislation from taking effect until the court’s verdict.
The pari-mutuel operators’ handle decreased by 35% within days after Seminole Gaming’s early lunch, according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
Outside of the legal system, FanDuel and DraftKings have launched a petition effort. This would empower Florida voters to approve the legalization of commercial sports betting across the state.
Case at hand likely to spend some time in the Court
The case's complexity was unveiled at Friday's hearing. The pari-mutuel operators have their requests, but Friedrich also listened to lawyers representing the parties, who do not only want to see the sports betting section allowed off tribal lands invalidated, but the entire agreement. This shows the divergent goals of the parties.
The federal government is the defendant on the other side of the courtroom. However, tribal leaders believe that the federal government's interests differ from theirs, and that the case's outcome will have an impact on them, which is why the Seminole Tribe is also attempting to intervene in the case.
Remember how the Interior Department told Seminole and Florida authorities in August that its assessment of the compact would exceed the 45-day deadline? Subsequently, the compact is considered approved by federal legislation because it complies with IGRA.
The parimutuel partnership portion of the agreement, as well as another provision that provides the state jurisdiction over patron issues, have raised some worries among federal officials. Officials said they would not read constraints into the 33-year-old IGRA that do not exist when it came to online betting.
It is therefore likely that by next Monday, we'll know whether Judge Friedrich validates that having servers on tribal lands counts as placing the bet on tribal lands. Her decision in the case is unlikely to be final in view of the situation.