Sports betting is one of the biggest gaming options that is sweeping the States of America. In the state of Florida, however, legislation regarding sports betting was put on hold due to a court’s decision. Now THAT situation has been further clouded as an appellate court has reversed that previous decision, leaving the future of sports betting in the state in chaos.
Appellate Court Reverses Previous Stance on Sports Betting
Last week, the District of Columbia’s U. S. Court of Appeals acted on a previous decision that had been made in a lower court. In the current decision, the Court of Appeals decided that the lower court was mistaken in its decision, which had stated that sports betting was not being performed on tribal lands. The decision of the appeals court revived a $2.5 billion compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Florida state government.
Previously, the District Court had decided that the stance of the Seminoles and the state that mobile sports betting was occurring on tribal lands because it went through the servers located on those lands was “fiction” and ruled against the Tribe and the state. That put back into effect the 2010 agreement between the two, which did not give sports betting to the Seminoles and restricted the types of gaming they could offer.
With this most recent decision, however, that technically has been reversed. The reason the word “technically” is being used is that there are still many factors (and lawsuits) that are wending their way through the court system. There is also the question of whether to take the case to the higher courts, either the Florida Supreme Court or the U. S. Supreme Court.
The Seminoles also must be questioning whether they want to restart their sports betting operations immediately or not. When the compact was first approved, the Seminoles opened for business during the summer of 2021. When the original ruling was made in December 2021, however, the Tribe had to shut down operations, cashing out bets made to that point and having to refund other bets that had been made.
Now that there is a reversal in place, the Seminoles could in theory go ahead and open for business again. They are probably going to be quite wary, however, remembering how their operations were interrupted previously. It simply leaves the entire situation in a state of flux, with no one sure which way it will go.
Future Options for Florida Sports Betting
There are several moving parts to the question of sports betting in the state of Florida. Because of the way that the Florida state government has handed a near-monopoly to the Seminole Tribe (there are pari-mutuel betting outlets, which can offer poker rooms on their property, but no other gaming), the operation of said facilities not only has to be approved by the state but also by the Department of the Interior through the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. There is also the fact that, in 2018, a Constitutional amendment passed that required any expansion of gaming to be put to a vote of the state’s residents.
The people bringing the legal action against the Seminoles and the state have argued that the compact, which would last for 30 years and would guarantee the state a $500 million payout per year from the Seminoles, is illegal because it approves other forms of gaming (sports betting). Additionally, there is also a complaint from these litigants that the federal government, which did not technically approve the compact (they allowed a 45-day waiting period to expire without comment), should have weighed in with their opinion before it could be ratified. Finally, there is the question of betting occurring on tribal lands, especially when the bets come from cell phones or computers that could be located hundreds of miles from the actual tribal grounds.
The Seminoles and the state say that the “hub and spoke” form of sports betting they are using does count as being located on tribal grounds. They also point out that the Constitutional amendment that was passed only applied to commercial gaming expansion. As the compact between the state and the Seminoles is not a public commercial expansion, it shouldn’t be covered by the new Constitutional amendment.
Unless the Seminoles feel like taking another chance – like they did in the summer of 2021 – then it isn’t likely that sports betting will be live in Florida at any moment soon. Other court cases are being litigated, which could take several years, before the Sunshine State can join the other 37 states in the U. S. that have approved sports betting for their citizens.