New Legal Challenges in Florida May Delay Sports Betting in the State

As a result of continued scrutiny from commercial gaming entities across the state, the newly signed Florida gaming compact will face legal action in the coming weeks.

Miami’s Magic City Casino, backed by the Bonita Springs Poker Room, recently filed a lawsuit claiming that the compact is unconstitutional. More specifically, the suit addresses the advent of legal online sports betting based in servers on tribal land.

Terms of the Compact

The gaming compact was ratified by Florida legislators in May, authorizing both retail and online tribal sports betting. The compact was long-awaited, as the Seminole Tribe has been withholding gaming revenue from the state since 2019.

As it stands, tribal casinos would maintain authority over online sports betting in Florida. There is a clause included for commercial racetracks to develop their own off-reservation betting platforms.

However, these entities would have to act as partners with the Seminole Tribe and provide them with 40% of all proceeds from online sports betting.

At the time, the compact seemed to be an end-all-be-all resolution to hold up for the next 30 years. However, commercial gaming powers have been incredibly vocal regarding inequity in the deal.

Legalities and Technicalities

The Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room, listed in the case as “Southwest Parimutuels,” argue that the compact’s provision for online sports betting violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) does not allow for the placement of bets from off of tribal lands. While the compact reinterprets this language by allowing for betting via servers placed on tribal lands, the commercial entities involved in the suit don’t buy it.

The lawsuit expresses the complaint as such:

“The 2021 compact unlawfully deems the bet to be placed on the tribe’s reservation, where the servers will be located. However, this is nothing more than a legal fiction belied by the fact that sports betting is still taking place outside the tribe’s reservations in a state where sports betting remains illegal.”

Southwest Parimutuels also claims that the compact circumvents a 2018 state constitutional amendment that requires all gambling expansion legislation in Florida to be voter-approved.

The Future for Florida

It is still unclear as to whether this lawsuit will affect or invalidate the compact. However, such a challenge may mean that Floridians will have to wait until after football season to start placing domestic online sports bets.

But let it be known that Floridians have been able to legally place sports bets for several years using offshore sportsbooks. This issue is simply a matter of bringing sports betting revenues back to the state, a trial that the legislature has worked long and hard to overcome.

Sports betting is already extremely accessible in FL. This lawsuit may not be as much of a problem for resident bettors as it is for the state.