Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe signed a new gaming compact that would bring mobile sports betting to Florida
By Buck Wargo – SiGMA US correspondent
Florida sports betting is far from becoming a reality yet, despite a preliminary deal just reached.
As the attention of the sports betting industry turns to Florida, lawmakers are considering an agreement reached between the Seminole Tribe and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
If approved, as expected, the Department of Interior will need to sign off on something that was never allowed - a tribal nation offering mobile sports betting off the reservation.
Florida sports betting:
The preliminary agreement allows retail at the tribal casinos in addition to mobile sports betting statewide. There’s the potential for sports betting online at retail at pari-mutuel tracks, but that’s still not guaranteed.
If pari-mutuel tracks are approved for sports betting, the tribe sill gets a 40 per cent cut, according to Florida sports betting attorney Daniel Wallach.
The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act doesn’t allow mobile betting off the reservation. However, under the Biden Administration, the Department of Interior is headed by Deb Haaland, a Native American.
“It will be interesting with the new head of the (US) Department of Interior of how they look at that and treat that,” said Brendan Bussmann, a government affairs director with Global Market Advisors.
“But the bigger concern for me is the Seminoles and Walt Disney Co. put forth this ballot initiative in 2018 – known as amendment 3 - that said that any expansion of gaming had to be approved by voters.”
According to Wallach, ‘Amendment 3’ covers casino gaming and doesn’t expect any issue with state law. Even though he argues an act of Congress is needed to allow a tribe to offer mobile sports betting off a reservation, Wallach said he expects Haaland to approve it or take no action, which in essence allows it to take place.
That won’t end the matter, however, Wallach argues as the issue is likely to go to the federal court where it’s likely to be overturned, he said.
“Most of the gambling will take place beyond Indian lands, which is beyond the limited jurisdictional scope of the law,” Wallach said.
“There’s no federal law against tribes operating mobile sports betting. Compacts are limited to gaming activities on Indian land, and the placement of a computer server on Indian lands to receive the bets made off Indian lands does not transform that gambling activity.”
The requirement that pari-mutuel facilities must share 40 per cent with the tribe means that the Seminoles will have a competitive advantage, Wallach said.
“It makes the tribe’s own mobile sportsbook better and be able to offer more promotions and deposit bonuses, creating a de facto monopoly,” Wallach said.
“The ultimate equaliser will be the federal courts. A federal judge will draw upon the precedent that has been set out over many years.”
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