For the third time in less than two weeks, a federal court has ruled that the Seminole Tribe should cease offering live digital sports betting in Florida. It appears that the tribe, which continued to operate after the first ruling Nov. 23, does not have immediate plans to comply.
“The Seminole Tribe is aware of today’s Appeals Court decision and is carefully considering the steps it will take as a result,” Gary Bitner, a spokesperson for the Seminoles, wrote in an email to Sports Handle. “Despite the decision, the Seminole Tribe looks forward to a hearing from the Appeals Court based on the appeal previously filed by the Tribe and an expected appeal by the U.S. Department of Justice.”
The two-paragraph ruling reads, in part: “FURTHER ORDERED that the emergency motion for stay be denied. Appellant has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending appeal. See Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 434 (2009); D.C. Circuit Handbook of Practice and Internal Procedures 33 (2021).”
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich wrote that the 2021 compact between the tribe and the state of Florida should be vacated and the tribe should revert to operating under its 2010 compact, which does not address sports betting.
No Casinos group also denied
The three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia also denied the participation of an amicus curae brief filed by a group that includes No Casinos, but did write that the group could weigh in during the merits stage of the case as it moves forward. Friday’s decisions addressed only the amicus brief and an emergency motion from the Seminoles to continue to offer wagering.
The bigger case, West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Associates vs. U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, is still in play, though no date for oral arguments or a briefing schedule has been set. In the case, the two south Florida parimutuels argue that the 2021 compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and that they are harmed by allowing the Seminole Tribe to have a monopoly on sports betting. Under the current compact, every wager made in Florida — whether on or off Indian lands — is deemed to have occurred on tribal land if it runs through a Seminole server. IGRA regulates only what happens on tribal land.
The decision also came two days after the Las Vegas Sands Corp. filed a suit in Florida against the tribe, accusing it of trying to block Las Vegas Sands from collecting the nearly 891,589 signatures it needs to get an initiative for a land-based casino in Jacksonville on the November 2022 ballot, according to Politico. Once on the ballot, the initiative needs a 60% majority to pass.
Politico broke a story this week in which signature-gathering companies said signature gatherers are being paid by the Seminoles not to collect signatures, and that they are using scare tactics to make it difficult to collect signatures. Las Vegas Sands and a coalition of sports betting operators led by DraftKings and FanDuel are separately attempting to collect enough signatures to get their initiatives on the November 2022 ballot. Both proposals would allow for some form of commercial wagering that does not flow through the Seminoles.