Seminole Gaming Compact Gains More Support With Florida AG Ashley Moody
The Seminole gaming compact reached last year between the tribe that owns Hard Rock International and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) continues to gain support for its federal appeal.
In November, US District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich agreed with the owners of Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room in their lawsuit against the US Department of the Interior (DOI) for approving the Seminole-DeSantis Class III gaming compact. The new gaming revenue-sharing agreement allows the tribe to operate in-person sports betting at its six state casinos and online through mobile platforms.
The plaintiffs of the federal suit say the online sports betting component violates the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which limits tribal gaming to a tribal nation’s sovereign land.
Friedrich ruled against the tribe and governor’s opinion that maintaining the internet sportsbook servers on the tribe’s land, but allowing bettors to place their wagers from anywhere in the state, doesn’t run afoul of IGRA.
The Seminoles, who were required to suspend their sports betting operations and other new permitted table games under the 2021 compact following the judgment, appealed Friedrich’s ruling to the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Florida AG Backs Compact
The coalition of supporters backing the Seminole-DeSantis compact continues to grow. In a rare sign of unity between the White House and DeSantis, the DOI under President Joe Biden wrote the federal appeals court earlier this month urging the court to overturn Friedrich’s opinion and reinstate the compact.
Attorneys for the DOI say it’s not the federal government’s responsibility to disapprove a tribal gaming compact that rightfully allows gaming on Indian lands simply because the agreement might also allow persons physically located off of that land to participate.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) is the latest to voice an opinion in support of the tribe’s 2021 compact. In a 32-page brief filed with the DC appeals court, Moody’s office said Friedrich erred in overthrowing the compact.
The 2021 Compact provides enormous economic benefits to both the State of Florida and the Tribe. And that Compact is lawful,” Moody’s brief contended.
“Given the massive significance of the compact to Florida and the Tribe, it would be extraordinary for the Court to permit the federal government’s litigation error to doom the vast bulk of the Compact,” she added.
Odds Favor Overturn
The list of supporters urging the federal appeals court to reverse Friedrich’s decision continues to mount. Along with the DOI and the Florida attorney general, several powerful Native American tribes that operate gaming across the nation filed a joint brief with the court in support of the Seminoles.
Veteran tribal gaming lawyer Deril Jordan said last month at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States that he too believes Friedrich incorrectly interpreted the IGRA in relation to the Seminole 2021 gaming compact.
The Interior Department concluded that the legal gaming industry is “moving inexorably online,” particularly with respect to sports betting. The federal agency said Friedrich’s ruling essentially “erects a wall around tribal lands and prevents tribes from keeping pace with online advancements within the gaming industry.”
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