U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich late Wednesday denied the Seminole Tribe’s request for a stay to continue to offer sports betting in Florida. The decision marks the second time in three days that Friedrich has called for the end of sports betting in the state. The tribe continued to offer wagering after a decision Monday in which Friedrich ruled that the compact between the state and the tribe to allow betting be vacated.
The Seminoles have already appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will be a three-judge panel. The case has been assigned a circuit court case number, but as of Wednesday night, there was no schedule for hearings or decisions available.
On Monday, Friedrich ruled in favor of West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Meyers Associates in their case against the U.S. Department of the Interior. In that decision, Friedrich called the compact, which allows for any bet placed in the state of Florida to be considered placed on Indian lands if it flows through a server on tribal lands, to be in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That decision and Wednesday’s mean that the tribe should cease offering wagering, but the Seminoles’ Hard Rock sports betting app remained active Wednesday night.
Tribe fails to persuade
In her ruling Wednesday, Friedrich wrote that “the Tribe failed to show that this Court’s decision will cause irreparable harm” but that the plaintiffs are facing “ongoing competitive injury” since the compact gives the Seminoles a monopoly. The tribe went live with digital sports betting on Nov. 1.
The @HardRock Sports Betting App continues to go full-speed ahead despite the federal judge's decision that nullified the Florida Gaming Compact. #GamblingTwitter pic.twitter.com/JUzEtdyvBl
— Bill Speros (@billsperos) November 24, 2021
That go-live was a bit of a surprise. The compact allowed for the Seminoles to launch as early as Oct. 15, but according to the plaintiffs, the tribe said it would not go live until Nov. 15, allowing time for a decision by the court in the initial case. The Seminoles say they never publicly announced a go-live date, but Friedrich suggests in her ruling that the tribe misrepresented its intentions.
“Although the tribe invokes an interest in preserving the status quo, online gaming under the Compact began only on November 1, 2021, and the tribe previously represented that it would not begin until November 15,” she wrote.
Compact has faced multiple challenges
The compact between Florida and the Seminoles has been under fire since Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Chairman Marcellus Osceola negotiated it in April. The compact allows for statewide mobile sports wagering, retail betting, and an expansion of gaming that includes the addition of roulette and craps to the Seminoles’ brick-and-mortar casinos. It also includes a guaranteed $2.5 billion to the state from the tribe over five years.
Lawmakers approved the compact during a special session in May, and DOI Secretary Deb Haaland allowed it to become “deemed approved” in August. Haaland did not sign off on the compact, but rather allowed a 45-day review period to pass.
Three lawsuits have been brought since the compact was approved, and a group of commercial operators is currently gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would open the marketplace and create competition.
Friedrich ordered the state and tribe to revert to the 2010 compact in her Monday ruling. She also suggested that the state and tribe negotiate a new, legal compact or that sports betting be made legal in the state via a referendum.