TALLAHASSEE — The legality of sports betting in Florida remained uncertain on Wednesday, as the Seminole tribe stepped up efforts to keep an agreement intact giving them control of online sports betting following a judge’s ruling that the agreement violates federal law.
The tribe’s latest legal rounds have given no indication of an intention to comply with U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich’s Nov. 22 order rescinding an agreement signed this spring by Governor Ron DeSantis and President of the United States. tribe Marcellus Osceola, Jr. and endorsed by the legislature in a May special. session. The US Department of the Interior, which oversees Indian gambling, authorized the plan to go forward in August.
Friedrich’s decision focused on part of the deal, known as the Gaming Pact, which first opened the door to sports betting in Florida. Under the agreement, bettors from anywhere in the state can place online bets on sporting events, with bets being managed by computer servers on the tribal lands.
The owners of Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room in southwest Florida have filed a lawsuit challenging the Home Office’s tacit approval of the pact, arguing that the plan sports betting is a “legal fiction” because federal law does not allow betting that occurs outside of tribal lands.
In last week’s ruling, Friedrich found the pact violated a federal law known as the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, or IGRA. She quashed the entire deal and rejected the Seminoles’ request to intervene in the lawsuit, which was brought against the Home Office, and have it dismissed on the basis of sovereign immunity. tribe.
After the ruling, the tribe continued to allow Florida residents to place bets on a mobile sports betting app, which rolled out on November 1. On November 25, the Seminoles filed an emergency petition asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for The District of Columbia to stay Friedrich’s decision and asked a three-judge panel of the court to rule on the court’s petition. ‘here Friday.
The tribe argued that they should have been allowed to intervene in the trial. In a court document filed Wednesday, attorneys for the Seminoles said Friedrich’s decision had “an immediate chilling effect, with major vendors shutting down their activities with the tribe even as she requested a suspension.”
As part of the 30-year pact, the Seminoles agreed to pay the state at least $ 2.5 billion over the first five years in exchange for control of sports betting and permission to add craps. and roulette at the tribe’s casino operations. The Seminoles suspension motion said the tribe paid the state $ 37.5 million in October and an additional $ 37.5 million in November.
“Without a stay, the tribe will suffer an assault on its sovereignty, and hundreds of tribal jobs and vendors related to sports betting, craps and roulette will be lost, injuring hundreds of Floridians and their families,” said Wednesday the 15-page brief.
The Home Office told the appeals court on Tuesday it did not oppose the Seminole’s emergency motion, but disagreed with the tribe’s analysis . The federal agency said it had not decided to separately appeal Friedrich’s decision.
But on Wednesday, the tribe tore up the Biden administration’s defense of the pact, telling the court “whether the federal defendants adequately represent the interests of the tribe in this case is a serious legal issue that warrants a more deliberate investigation.”
During a two-hour hearing on November 5, Friedrich spent the first 30 minutes arguing with Rebecca Ross, a lawyer in the Indian Resources Section of the Department of Justice, over the government’s reluctance to take position on the issue at the heart of complainants’ complaints. prosecution: whether the sports betting provision complies with IGRA.
“It’s hard not to sit here and think that the whole government’s litigation strategy here is to delay the decision of this tribunal,” Friedrich, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, said around the end of the hearing.
The tribe highlighted Friedrich’s comments in Wednesday’s court file.
The federal government’s “litigation strategy and arguments (or lack thereof) demonstrate on a practical level that they do not adequately represent the tribe,” the Seminole lawyers wrote.
Perhaps the most striking evidence is the district court’s apparent and significant frustration with the litigation strategy of the federal defendants. The district court said… it was “confused” by the position of the federal defendants in the litigation that they did not need to deal with the arguments on the merits, “they argued.
The tribe also accused the federal government of “omitting important legal arguments” that the Seminoles allegedly informed.
The tribe’s arguments contradict those put forward by the Interior Ministry in the court document filed Tuesday. The department argued that it “mounted a vigorous defense of the contested agency’s action, including filing a motion to dismiss on various grounds not presented by the tribe and providing an additional brief. on the background”.
Pari-mutuel owners, meanwhile, urged the court to dismiss the tribe’s attempt to block Friedrich’s decision.
In a document filed Tuesday, plaintiffs’ lawyers accused the Seminoles of being “malevolent to the court” over alleged “irreparable damage” that would warrant a stay of its decision.
“While telling the court that in the absence of an emergency stay, he” risks losing “tens of millions of income, he tells his clients (more than a week after the court’s decision to district) that its illegal online sports games “remain fully open to all players” and “there is no cause for concern,” “the pari-mutuels lawyers argued.
But the Seminoles hit back on Wednesday, saying the pact — which requires the tribe to contract with at least three Florida pari-mutuel operators over the sports betting effort — offers the only chance for the plaintiffs to participate in online sports betting. And the tribe took issue with the claim that year-over-year pari-mutuels revenue declined in the weeks after the Seminoles launched sports betting operations.
There is “no evidence that the allegedly reduced earnings of the complainants …”