Seminole Tribe’s sports betting compact with the state facing battles from opponents in court

The Seminole Tribe were to have launched sports betting in Florida Oct. 15, but they've pushed the timeline back. Meanwhile, lawsuits against the compact are in the courts.

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – The Seminole Tribe originally said they’d kick off sports betting through Florida on Oct. 15, but they’ve pushed that back by at least a couple of months. They say they want to get it right.

Meanwhile, opponents have filed no more than three lawsuits to stop it.

The tribe is running a heavy rotation of television advertisements, which feature an attractive actress on a country estate — a far cry from the frenzy of a casino.

“The tribe is trying to say, ‘You will now have a safe legal alternative and you should believe in us,” Bob Jarvis a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad College of Law, told Local 10 News.

The advertisement voiceover promises billion of dollars for the state of Florida, thousands of new jobs on the way with Florida controlled sports betting.

Sports betting is the key to the compact making it easy to bet on a game or a single play from a cell phone anywhere in the state. Bets can also be placed through mobile apps at racetracks and jai-alai frontons.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber has been an opponent saying “We don’t want it here, we don’t want it in Miami, we don’t want it in South Florida,” he said.

In 2018, Florida voters approved Amendment 3, which prohibits the expansion of casino gambling except on tribal lands. The gambling compact uses the idea that by putting the server on Seminole land, which is considered sovreign territory, that bets can be placed from anywhere.

“The compact relies on the illusion that if you’re on your cell phone and placing a bet in Orlando or in downtown Miami or wherever that because the file server, the computer server, it is on that’s receiving that bet is on tribal lands, therefore that gambling is taking place on tribal lands,” said John Sowinski who is against the compact.

Jarvis believes court rulings will favor the tribe.

“They’re not worried about these lawsuits because these lawsuits, I personally think, are dead on arrival and even if they win in one of these courts, they are going to get overturned on appeal,” Jarvis said

However, Eugene Stearns, the attorney for gambling opponents Armando Codina and Norman Braman, tells Local 10′s Michael Putney that the law is on their side.

In the end, it will likely be the courts that decide.

About the Authors:

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter. 

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local She has a bachelor's degree from Emerson College, Boston, and a master's degree from SUNY-Empire State.