wplg logo

Florida sports betting blocked by judge

Seminole Tribe files stay of ruling pending appeal

Three weeks after launching a new sports betting app, the Seminole Tribe of Florida was dealt a major legal blow on Monday when a federal judge tossed out their new gaming compact with the state.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Three weeks after launching a new sports betting app, the Seminole Tribe of Florida was dealt a major legal blow on Monday when a federal judge tossed out their new gaming compact with the state.

The 30-year compact gave the tribe exclusive rights to all sports betting in Florida, and the Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile app went live Nov. 1.

This new ruling now puts those plans on hold.

During a stop in South Florida on Tuesday morning, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he had not yet reviewed the ruling but said he does expect it to be appealed.

“When we did the compact, I can only negotiate with the tribe,” DeSantis said. “I cannot do any gambling outside of that per the amendment that passed in 2018. ... They wanted to do the sports, and so we said fine, and the reason why I said that was because it would probably pass on a referendum anyway. And then if a company gets it, the tribe gets it anyway. So we felt that that made sense.”

Because federal law requires any state-sanctioned gaming to occur on tribal land, the compact called for a server to be placed on Seminole property — which all app traffic would pass through — allowing those bets to be placed from anywhere within the state.

The judge ruled Monday, however, that the plan does not follow the law and that the state re-implement its previous gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.

Opponents of the compact praised the ruling.

“Last night’s ruling was a victory for family-owned businesses like ours who pay their fair share in taxes and believe the free market should guide the business operations of gaming venues,” a spokesman for Magic City Casino said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Governor, Legislature, and the citizens of Florida to pave a path forward that ensures a fair gaming marketplace exists in Florida.”

Said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber: “This opinion vacating the FL Gaming Compact validates Floridians’ intent to rest gambling expansions solely with them and not the legislature or Governor, whose attempt to thwart the will of voters and sidestep a clear constitutional imperative hit a brick wall.”

As of Tuesday evening, the Hard Rock Sportsbook app was still up and running.

Gov. DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe are not mentioned in the lawsuit. Magic City Casino and another in Bonita Springs sued the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior that approved the state’s unprecedented deal with the tribe.

That’s who oversees the IRGA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act), which says tribal gaming must stay on tribal land.

Tuesday afternoon the Seminole Tribe filed a stay of the ruling pending appeal, and those court documents can be read at the bottom of this page.

They would like standing in the lawsuit and asks that it be dismissed altogether, but it’s not clear if the motion will be heard since the the Seminole Tribe isn’t named as a defendant in the lawsuit.


About the Authors:

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."