State AG sides with Seminole in Florida betting battle

Florida betting legal battle

As the US Circuit Court of Appeals readies to hear the case that will determine the fate of Florida sports betting, Supporters are filing briefs regarding the case. One notable supporter: the Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

West Flager Associates, the owners of a couple of local card rooms and casinos, initially sued the Department of the Interior (DOI) for approving an updated compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Under the compact, the Seminoles had a de facto monopoly on online sports betting in the state. Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled in favor of West Flager, stating the updated compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

Moody filed a 32-page brief on the case this week, backing the restoration of the compact. Moody also argued that the initial ruling by Judge Friedrich was erroneous. Moody’s brief minced no words:

“The 2021 compact provides enormous economic benefits to both the state of Florida and the tribe. And that compact is lawful.”

Moody also pointed out the economic benefit this compact would have to the state. Under the terms, the Seminole would pay $2.5 billion to the state over the first five years in exchange for sports betting, the addition of craps and roulette ot the casino floor, and the addition of three new casinos on the Broward County Hard Rock property.

DOI maintains Florida betting compact legal

The DOI and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland filed their initial briefs to the appeals court, as did West Flager. The Seminole Tribe, though not a defendant in this case, filed an amicus brief with the court along with Moody. In that brief, the Seminole argue they should be a co-defendant on this suit and want to be included in the proceedings.

In the DOI brief, the bulk of the argument seems to center on the debate about what is taking place on and off tribal lands. In Friedrich’s ruling, she determined that sports bets were being placed off tribal lands, ergo not under the jurisdiction of the compact. The DOI argues that state law determines the legality of these transactions, ergo it was beyond the scope of the DOI when the department ratified the compact.

This is not the first time the location of a bet has been the heart of a legal debate. The Trump DOJ took a very stringent approach in its attempt to revisit the Wire Act, suggesting any online transaction that ever touched an out-of-state server was a Wire Act violation.

Now, it appears the definition of location will be crucial to the arguments in this appeal. Moody and others argue that the bet takes place on tribal land, as it defines the locations of these bets as within the servers housed on Seminole land. West Flagler and others suggest the online bets placed by customers on their phones are being done outside sovereign land and a violation of IGRA.

The final briefs in the case are due at the beginning of October. If there is a need for oral arguments, those will take place in November. In the meantime, Hard Rock Sportsbook continues to sit on the skyline in the Sunshine State.