Judge Denies Seminole Tribe’s Appeal on Ruling to Block Sports Betting

Logos of Six of the Seminole Casinos in Florida With Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood in Background
A federal judge has ruled against the appeal of the Seminole Tribe to put on temporary hold the ruling which invalidated the tribe’s online sports betting operations in Florida.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of the District of Columbia said on Wednesday that the Seminole tribe has not proved that it will “irreparably injured” if it is not allowed to continue with its sports betting business in the state. Last Monday, Freidrich ruled that the 30-year gaming compact forged by Florida Governor Ron de Santis and the Seminole Tribe violated the federal Indian gaming law.

In her ruling, Freidrich concluded that the compact should have not been approved by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland because the federal law requires that gambling takes place only on tribal land and the Seminole compact allows online sports betting to take place outside of tribal lands.

Computer Servers are on Tribal Land

In the compact, the state agreed to give the Seminole Tribe a monopoly of Florida sports betting by having all sports bets go through the tribe’s servers located on tribal land. By doing this, the compact argued that it satisfies the provision on the federal law that requires a sports bettor to be physically present on tribal land to make a legal wager.

As compensation for getting the exclusive rights to operate legal Florida sports betting, the Tribe agreed to pay the state at least $2.5 billion over the fist five years. Aside from operating sports betting, the compact also provided for the addition of craps and roulette to the tribe’s current casino offerings.

Seminole Filed a Notice of Appeal

On Tuesday, the Tribe field a notice of appeal and a motion for stay pending appeal that would allow it to continue its sports betting operations as the appeal moves through the legal process. In its appeal, the tribe argued that the ruling will cause “irreparable harm” to its sovereignty and economic revenues. Its lawyers said that stopping online sports betting operations would cause substantial revenue loss that would affect important programs of the tribe.

But in a four-part rebuttal, Friedrich rejected the appeal by saying that the Tribe had no guarantee of success based on the merits of the case. Moreover, Friedrich said that the Tribe could not prove that the absence of a stay will cause “irreparable injury”. Freidrich also opined that if the court granted the Tribe a stay, it would “injure” the plaintiffs of the case, the non-Indian casino owners of Florida, who have shown that the Seminole compact causes ongoing competitive injury to them.