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DC Court Rules In Favor Of Seminole Tribe-Florida Gaming Compact

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on June 30, 2023
Florida-Seminole Tribe compact

DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the tribal gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and the State of Florida. 

The ruling, handed down on Friday, vacates a District Court’s decision that the compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

With the decision, the Seminoles should again be able to restart online sports betting in Florida through its Hard Rock Sportsbook app. 

It’s likely that the decision could be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Setting the stage 

In August 2021, West Flagler Associates and various gaming entities sued to block the compact. The West Flager lawsuit provided two reasons why the online sports betting provision in the compact was invalid. 

  • It unlawfully permits the Tribe to operate gaming outside of its own reservations — which is not allowed by IGRA.
  • If wagers are not legal off tribal land, then allowing internet and bank wire transmissions related to sports betting would violate the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and The Wire Act.

On an overarching level, the tribe took issue with being denied the ability to join the complaint. It argued its exclusion is not only improper but renders the lawsuit illegitimate. 

“West Flagler and Interior make the incredible argument that the Tribe is not a required party under Rule 19(a), even though the District Court easily found the Tribe to be required because it is a party to the 2021 Compact at issue in this case.”

“West Flagler brought this suit against Interior as a collateral attack to stop the Tribe from exercising its negotiated-for rights under the 2021 Compact. West Flagler only did this because it knew it could not directly sue the State or Tribe due to their immunity.”

Gaming compact debate

The 2021 compact had several gaming revisions, including statewide online sports betting through a hub-and-spoke model. The model placed gaming servers on tribal land. For sports betting, the Seminoles were required to partner with at least three pari-mutuel facilities. In doing so, these facilities would be given access to the Tribe’s wagering platform using their own brand. 

The Hard Rock Sportsbook app was up and running for one month in 2021. However, a ruling from US District Court judge Dabney Friedrich stopped wagering in November 2021. 

Legal experts have said they believe the case will be appealed to the US Supreme Court, which could have ramifications for Indian gaming in the US.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick Garcia is a senior reporter for PlayUSA. Garcia provides analysis and in-depth coverage of the gambling industry with a key focus on online casinos, sports betting and financial markets. Garcia has been covering the US gambling market since 2017. He attended Texas Tech University as an undergrad and received a Master of Arts in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago.

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