Biden administration approves Florida-Seminole gambling deal
August 20, 2022
The Biden administration is now urging a court appeal to reinstate the agreement that gives the Seminole Tribe control over sports throughout Florida, nearly nine months after a judge in Washington, D.C., found that the Seminole Tribe agreement violated federal law.
This is in response to the U.S. Department of the Interior's decision on Wednesday to offer the "compact" agreement full support from the Biden administration.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida chairman Marcellus Osceola, Jr., and Governor Ron DeSantis signed the gambling agreement itself last year. It paved the way for the state of Florida to legalize sports betting for the first time.
The "hub-and-spoke" sports betting strategy would let players wager online using servers located on tribal lands.
However, the compact says that any bets placed in Florida using electronic or mobile apps shall be regarded as being "exclusively conducted by the tribe."
In addition, the agreement will allow the Seminoles to build three additional casinos on their land in Broward County and to offer craps and roulette in their casinos.
Critics underline "potentially devastating" impact
Florida-based Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room owners also rejected the arrangement, claiming that it broke the law and would have a "significant and potentially devastating" impact on their companies.
In November, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that the plan violated the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which permits gambling off Seminole property.
It is also said that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland made a mistake by approving the deal last summer.
Attorneys for Haaland, however, said that Friedrich was wrong since the agreement only authorized gaming on tribal territories and consequently the secretary was required to permit it to take effect.
"The secretary has no duty - nor even any authority - to disapprove a compact that validly authorizes gaming on Indian lands simply because the compact also contemplates that the state will enact legislation permitting persons outside Indian lands to participate in that gaming,” a statement made by lawyers for Haaland in a 75-page brief.
Justice Department officials also defended Haaland's choice to approve the compact in the brief from the previous year.
Biden assertion on state law
The Biden administration, however, changed its position in its brief filed on Wednesday, saying that the Haaland's review of the compact was limited to activities authorized to occur on Seminoles lands and that the legality of any non-Indian land activities covered by a compact is a matter of state law.
"The legality of any non-Indian land activities discussed in a compact is instead a matter of state law: If the courts ultimately decide that those activities are not authorized by state law, then those activities will not be permitted, regardless of what the compact contemplates," the brief reads.
Attorneys for the tribe claimed that Friedrich acted improperly by denying their request to intervene in the legal dispute in regards to the pari-mutuels in a different brief submitted on Wednesday.
It is mentioned that the tribe “has a broad and particular interest in maintaining the 2021 compact, which is critical to the resolution of continuing discord between the tribe and pari-mutuel facilities, and to healing the long-standing rift between the tribe and the state,” according to the attorney.
Due to a 2018 constitutional change that requires statewide voter approval for any expansion of gambling in Florida, people who oppose the Seminoles' sports betting agreement would technically be in compliance with the amendment.