Legal Challenge Looms As FL Signs New Compact With Seminole

On Friday, Florida governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida signed a new gambling compact that will allow domestic sports betting and new casino games to launch in the Sunshine State.

The compact is a major step forward for both parties, representing a final, agreeable remedy to an ongoing dispute that reared its ugly head when FL was found – in 2016 – to have violated its 2010 compact with the Seminole.

Since 2018, as a result of a ruling in federal court to that effect – the Seminole have withheld its annual slots revenue share with the state.

This represented a minimum $350 million annual addition to state coffers.

Today, with the new compact and the new casino games it allows – along with sports betting rights for the Seminole – that share would be upwards of $500 million.

The terms of the agreement are these:

  1. The Seminole will be the chief entity to operate legal sports betting in Florida, which will be available at their six tribal casino venues throughout the state, as well as at partner racetracks and card rooms. Domestic online sports betting is not a component of the agreement.
  2. The Seminole will be allowed to offer roulette and craps at their six Class III casinos. These game types were not included in the 2010 compact, and the tribe has been lobbying the state to allow these popular and profitable amusements for years. Domestic online casino gambling is not a component of the agreement.
  3. Third-party-banked and player-banked card games operated by non-Seminole entities – the earlier allowance for which led to the state being deemed in violation of the aforementioned 2010 Seminole gaming compact – will be allowed to continue operating the games they currently do, with no expansion thereof. These venues will not be forced to close, and they will be allowed to host sports betting in a partnership deal with the Seminole.

While every Florida gambling enthusiast is pleased with this development, one group – an anti-gambling outfit called “No Casinos” – is planning a legal challenge on the premise that the new deal “violates Amendment 3 in at least three ways.”

Amendment 3, which was passed in 2018 after a voter referendum yielded 71% support for the law, bans expanded gambling in the state without voter approval, and the argument from No Casinos is that this new deal violates the state constitution as so amended.

Per No Casinos president John Sowinski:

“The proposed compact violates the letter and the spirit of Amendment 3. We call on the Governor and our Legislators to honor the will of the people, who demanded that any new casino gambling authorization occur at the ballot box, not behind closed doors in Tallahassee. We are committed to defending the integrity of Florida’s Constitution, and ensuring that the will of the people is respected.”

The problem with this interpretation is that, in very basic terms, the new compact does no such thing – at least not clearly.

It doesn’t establish any new retail or online betting sites, which is the hallmark of expanded gambling.

Further, it doesn’t legalize new casino games that were previously unlawful per state law.

The Seminole have not been allowed to offer roulette or craps, as specified in their 2010 Class III gambling compact with the state, but these activities are not themselves illegal for licensed and registered venues to offer to customers.

Unavailability does not imply illegality.

Finally, sports betting is only questionably considered a “game of chance,” and there is plenty of precedent elsewhere that it’s not viewed as a gambling game in the historical sense.

While the pastime is house-banked, it is not reliant wholly on random outcomes, and the skill of the bettor plays a significant role in whether that bettor wins or loses on aggregate.

Thus, it can be argued in court – and will likely be argued effectively in court by the state – that none of the new agreements with the Seminole constitute “expanded gambling.”

Of course, any challenge brought by No Casinos will also have to address tribal sovereignty, which could render their arguments moot on merit, jurisdiction, or both.

Nevertheless, such a challenge will delay the launch of these new games – and of domestic sports betting – in the state.

In other words, FL bettors may not have access to local retail roulette or craps for another year or more, and FL sports bettors may not be able to bet domestically on the lucrative and popular NFL season that gets underway in September.

Additionally, even when these new gambling markets do present themselves to Florida residents, the minimum age to participate will be 21 or older.

This leaves those seeking online casino gambling and online sports betting in the lurch, and it also hangs those players between the ages of 18 and 20 out to dry.

That said, if you’re 18+ and wish to enjoy iGaming or online sports betting legally and safely in Florida, you already can, regardless of what happens with the new Florida-Seminole tribal compact or the No Casinos suit.

That’s because the best online 18+ Florida casinos and online 18-and-up sportsbooks all accept players from the Sunshine State, and there are no laws on FL books that criminalize participation in real-money online gambling, sports betting, or poker.

Frankly, even once Florida’s new selections of casino games and sports betting opportunities go live, you’re still going to be better off playing online with legitimate 18+ offshore operators.

The games at these sites are far more varied and convenient while offering the same (or better) payout rates than domestic venues, and sports wagering locally will be heavily skewed on the odds boards for local Florida teams, of which there are many popular clubs across all major and collegiate sports.

In other words, you can bet on the Seminole Tribe all you want, but if you’re betting on the Seminoles football and basketball teams, you’re always going to get a bigger payout online than on-site.

Source: Florida Politics