Challenge To Florida Sports Betting Compact Gets More Briefs

Posted on November 4, 2021
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Written By on November 4, 2021

The Seminole Tribe of Florida made headlines this week when their Hard Rock Digital partners quietly launched sports betting.

Their sports betting app is now live in the Sunshine State. The launch came as a surprise only because of a document filed in the D.C.-based litigation challenging the validity of the Compact.

However, the Seminole Tribe is not a party to that litigation at the moment. With a showdown set for Friday in a federal courtroom in the District of Columbia, some last-minute pleadings were filed.

The first was a motion to file a response to an amicus curiae brief filed by the State of Florida from the West Flagler Associates plaintiffs. The second was the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s reply to the Department of the Interior‘s response to the Tribe’s motion to dismiss.

A contested filing in Florida sports betting?

The State of Florida filed an amicus curiae brief on October 19, the same day a federal judge in Florida dismissed the West Flagler Associates’ lawsuit against Governor Ron DeSantis. The plaintiffs request in their motion that they be granted leave of the court to respond, as the Florida brief did not require that the State confer with the plaintiffs before filing. Therefore the plaintiffs did not have a chance to address the arguments raised by the amicus before the close of the substantive filings.

While the plaintiffs note that they do not oppose the brief’s filing, they ask that they be allowed to respond to the arguments that were unique to the brief.

In the event of …

In hopes that the court will grant the motion (which it almost certainly will,) the plaintiffs attached their response to the Florida brief. The 18-page response plays many of the plaintiffs’ greatest hits, including that the State of Florida has argued against their current interpretation of the scope of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in the Coeur d’Alene case.

The response then goes on to again declare that the Compact “authorizes conduct that violates UIGEA, or the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, as well as the Wire Act.

While the plaintiffs’ UIGEA arguments are brief, they provide much greater elaboration on their Wire Act argument. Notably, the response raises concerns about intermediate routing and whether the transmissions that facilitate the online wagering transactions occur in interstate commerce.

The plaintiffs’ state:

… the transmission of such wagers and payments between the Tribe’s reservations and other locations in Florida, as well as the transmission of information assisting such wagers between the Tribe’s reservations and other states (for example, the location of an NCAA basketball game located in Oklahoma), and the intermediate, interstate transmission of bets, wagers, and information assisting such bets, all are properly viewed as communications made “in interstate commerce.” (citations omitted).

However, the first big obstacle that the plaintiffs must overcome is convincing the D.C.-based court that they are the proper parties to be making these arguments by showing that they have standing.

Seminole Tribe fires back at federal defendants

The second-most recent filing of the case was from the Seminole Tribe of Florida, who fired back at the Department of the Interior and Secretary Deb Haaland, who argued that the Tribe’s motion to dismiss should be pushed aside in favor of the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

The eight-page reply from the Tribe argues that the federal defendants are not the only necessary party in an Administrative Procedure Act case and that the federal defendants do not adequately represent the interests of the Tribe. The Seminole Tribe notes that the Department of the Interior has backed similar Rule 19 arguments in other cases, with the federal agency arguing that a tribe is an indispensable party in those matters.

A balancing test

The Seminole Tribe’s second argument is that the defendants have incorrectly weighted interests in analyzing the public’s interest in seeing the court review the agency’s action.

The Tribe argues that the public interest exception to Rule 19, which allows the Court to hear a case that would otherwise be dismissed if it is in the public’s interest, is permissive and not appropriate in the instant case.

Amador County is back

The federal defendants spent much of their brief opposing the Seminole Tribe’s motion for dismissal address the Amador County case. But the Seminole Tribe argues that:

the court rejected the public rights exception and refused to reconsider its dismissal of the case under Rule 19 for failure to join the tribe.

The Tribe argues that this is supportive of their position.

What is next in Florida sports betting?

This case will come to a head Friday in the federal court in D.C. It is expected that a decision will be issued relatively quickly, though an appeal regardless of what happens seems like an inevitability.

The great question hanging over the hearing is what effect the launch on November 1 has on the case – in particular, whether questions are raised about the document purported to show an agreement pushing back the launch date to November 15.

John Holden Avatar
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John Holden

John Holden J.D. / Ph.D. is an academic. His research focuses on policy issues surrounding sports corruption.

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