Judge denies Seminole Tribe’s stay on gambling expansion

Nov 25, 2021, 11:45 AM | Updated: 11:57 am

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — A federal district judge rejected a stay requested by the Seminole Tribe of Florida late Wednesday after an earlier ruling blocked the tribe’s deal with the state to expand gambling and online sports betting statewide.

Attorneys for the Seminoles argued the tribe would lose significant revenue from online sports betting, saying some of the money would be used to fund tribe programs. But U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected the request, saying the tribe hadn’t shown that it would be irreparably harmed if a stay were not granted.

However, the Sun Sentinel reported Thursday that the Hard Rock Sportsbook app was still operating and accepting bets. The app began accepting bets Nov. 1.

In a ruling late Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich found that the multibillion dollar agreement between the state and tribe allowing online betting violated a federal rule that requires a person to be physically on tribal land when wagering. The lawsuit, filed by non-Indian casino owners in Florida, challenged the approval of the agreement by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gambling operations.

The state and tribe had argued that because the computer servers processing the bets would be on tribal lands, bettors could wager from their phone or kiosks at race tracks and non-Indian casinos anywhere in the state and meet the federal standard.

But Judge Friedrich called that “fiction” in her earlier ruling.

The agreement made Florida– for a time — the latest state to legalize sports gambling since a 2018 Supreme Court ruling. It lifted a federal ban on such wagering outside Nevada and a few other states. Today, about half the states and the District of Columbia have legalized betting on sports in some form.

The judge, who was appointed to the District of Columbia Circuit Court in 2017 by former President Donald Trump, also noted that a 2018 state constitutional amendment passed overwhelmingly by voters requires any expansion of gambling outside of tribal lands be approved by voters.

The judge’s decision also blocks the tribe from adding roulette and craps to its Florida casinos — which may have allowed non-Indian casinos to do the same.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had worked out the compact with the tribe earlier this year and the GOP-controlled legislature approved it soon after, with the state potentially receiving $20 billion over the next 30 years.

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Judge denies Seminole Tribe’s stay on gambling expansion