Florida Gaming Compact Hit With First Lawsuit

Posted on July 6, 2021
Posted By on July 6, 2021

Two Florida pari-mutuels have filed the first lawsuit claiming the state’s new gaming compact violates federal law.

Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room filed suit late last week in FL District Court.

What is the issue with FL gaming compact?

They argue that mobile sports betting happens where the bettor is situated, not where the gaming server is based.

Therefore the Florida compact authorizes new gaming beyond just tribal lands, which violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

The compact also violates the Wire Act and UIGEA, per the suit, posted by lawyer Daniel Wallach.

Is new Florida gaming compact legal?

The pari-mutuels argue that mobile betting will cost them millions in revenue, as bettors gamble from home with the Seminole Tribe, which would control the market.

The pari-mutuels can theoretically partner with the Tribe for sports betting, but only on unfavorable terms, the suit said.

“IGRA does not authorize any compact that grants tribes the right to conduct gambling outside tribal lands, much less a monopoly on gaming outside tribal lands,” the suit added.

Seminole response

Seminole spokesperson Gary Bitner said the gaming compact “fully complied” with the relevant laws and was backed 3-1 by Floridians.

He said it guaranteed $2.5 billion in revenue sharing in its first five years, which is “the largest commitment by any gaming company in U.S. history”.

Always headed to the courts

Most stakeholders expected this kind of legal challenge for the Florida compact.  

When it was discussed in the legislature, House Speaker Chris Sprowls said the issue was “probably going to be resolved in court”.

FL Gov. Ron DeSantis has also acknowledged: “The main concern is whether online gaming is considered gambling ‘in tribal lands’.”

The new suit could also influence the Department of Interior, which is currently reviewing whether the compact is legal.

Other routes forward for Florida sports betting

Aside from the compact, US sportsbooks are working on another route forward for Florida online sports betting.

FanDuel and DraftKings are backing a ballot initiative that would put mobile sports betting to a referendum in 2022.

If adopted, that could pave the way for an open sports betting market, rather than the one controlled by the Seminole Tribe.

However, that might delay FL sports betting until 2023.

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Brad Allen

Brad has been covering the online gambling industry in Europe and the US for more than four years, most recently as the news editor at EGR Global.

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