Magic City Casino Owners Challenge Florida Gambling Compact With Seminole Tribe

Florida State Seal With a Casino Background

Florida’s gaming compact with the Seminole tribe has been challenged by a federal lawsuit from the owners of Magic City Casino.

The lawsuit alleges that the sports betting component in the compact is based on legal fiction and that it violates the federal law.

It was filed last Friday at the U.S. District Court or the Northern District of Florida by the Havenick family owned Southwest Parimutuels. It argues that the agreement authorizing sports betting outside Florida’s tribal lands is in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and asks the Court to stop the implementation of sports betting.

Said Isadore Havenick, vice president for public affairs of Southwest Parimutuels:

“While we are fully supportive of Gov. DeSantis and his work to secure a new Seminole Compact, the lawsuit focuses on a very narrow aspect of the Compact — the legality of off-reservation and online sports wagering.’’

The company claims that it stands to lose “millions” in revenues if Florida residents are allowed to make sports bets from their homes using the internet or mobile apps. It adds that this will significantly or even completely hinder their ability to compete with the tribe.

Online Bets on Sports Events

The compact, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. last May, would allow online bets on sports events using the internet or web applications from anywhere withing Florida beginning October 5th. All transactions however, would have to go through servers located on tribal lands to bypass both federal and state law which prohibit sports betting in Florida.

It also allows sports bets to be placed at six of the tribe’s reservations but also permits the state’s existing race tracks an jai alai frontons to develop their own mobile apps to conduct off-reservation bets if they are picked by the Tribe as its partners. Under this agreement, the parimutuel would get 60% of the bets’ proceeds while the tribe will receive the remaining 40%.

Bets “Deemed” to Bet Placed on Tribal Land

The main issue is the provision in the compact that says that a bet is “deemed” to be placed on tribal land just because of the location of the operator’s server. The lawsuit argues that this violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Wire Act, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, and other court decisions interpreting those mentioned laws.

In its 67-page complaint, Southwest Parimutuels argues that “contrary to the fiction that the 2021 Compact and Implementing Law, a bet is placed both where the bettor and the casino are located”. It also claims that such a compact between the state and Tribe can only “occur on Indian lands”. Furthermore, it says that the deal clearly allows bets to be placed outside tribal lands.

Pending Federal Review

The deal is currently awaiting approval from the U.S . Department of Interior which has 45-days to decide after the compact is submitted. A representative from the office of the governor said that it was mailed to the approving authority last June 3rd, although the lawsuit states that it was presented to the DOI on June 21st.

The tribe is also threatened by a constitutional amendment for the 2022 ballot which would authorize online sports betting at all Florida parimutuels, professional sports stadiums, and anywhere else in the state using a mobile sports betting platform. This was proposed by FanDuel and DraftKings.