When the Florida General Assembly met in May, it seemed it was just a “rubber stamp” session of the body. Pulled together for a “special session” to consider the new compact signed by Governor Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe leader Marcellus Osceola regarding gaming in the state. While the General Assembly did eventually put their approval on the deal, all that approval has done is opened the doors to legal actions and petitions regarding the issue backed by DraftKings, one of the bigger legalized sports betting operations in the States of America.
DraftKings Begins Petition Drive
With elections only a few months away, DraftKings is attempting to sway their customers to support the compact through a constitutional amendment in the state. In an email to its customers, DraftKings states, “Do you want the best sports betting experience in Florida and the opportunity to bet with apps that you already know and trust, like DraftKings? Do you want to ensure that sports betting tax revenue benefits Florida’s public education system? That’s exactly what the ballot question would do.”
The email provides a petition for the receiver to sign for DraftKings and other sports betting outlets to be authorized for usage in the state. DraftKings does identify that the money will go to fund Florida’s education system and it can ONLY be signed by registered voters in the state of Florida. All other signatures would be disallowed by the amendment process in the state of Florida.
Sports betting was a part of the compact signed between DeSantis and the Seminoles, allowing the tribe to conduct sports betting on its premises (among other gaming options like roulette and craps). It would also allow for mobile sports betting, whereas the other pari-mutuel and poker rooms in the state would be able to take bets. But all monies would be sifted through the Seminole outlet, and this is where it has perhaps gone awry.
Lawsuits Beginning to Fly
There has been plenty of legal opinion that the new compact between the Florida government and the Seminoles violates Florida’s constitution. In 2018, Florida’s voters passed Amendment 3, which made it mandatory that any expansion of gaming in the Sunshine State would have to be passed by the voters through a statewide referendum. That referendum would have to be approved by 60% of the voters, otherwise it would be rejected. It would seem that the sports betting provisions of the compact, not to mention the expansion of gaming on Seminole lands and in pari-mutuel and poker rooms across the state, would violate this.
There is a current challenge to the compact that is looking to the federal government to step in, however. Earlier this month, Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room filed a complaint with the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee. The two organizations state that the new compact violates three segments of federal law, the Wire Act of 1961, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006.
The plaintiffs in the case are bringing up the entirely accurate issue of where the gaming is being conducted. The state and the Seminoles believe that, since the sports betting is going through servers located on Seminole property, that it is not bound by the state’s Constitution. The defendants (the Seminoles and Florida government) position is that people could be anywhere in the state and place the bet, while the plaintiffs believe this is a fallacy and people need to be on site to participate.
Whichever way the legalese goes – either through the state or federal court system – it is obvious that the new compact is not going into effect at any point soon. That also means that sports betting in Florida is likely on hold, probably until well into 2022 and maybe beyond depending on the court system.