Complex Situation in Florida May Bar Seminoles from Online Wagering

Complex Situation in Florida

  • Unlike most states, Florida is attempting to give Seminoles complete authority over sports wagering
  • Changes may not pass muster with U.S. Dept. of Interior, according to experts
  • If Seminoles lose chance at online, will still give them a 30-year contract to offer in-person sports betting

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Differences in Florida’s Sports Betting Package

Florida’s most recent attempts to legalize online sports betting are different from many other states. Take Arizona and Connecticut for example both states are moving forward with wagering bills that expand tribal gaming and allow for online sports betting licenses, but they’re offered by a commission that’s separate from tribal authorities. In FL, the Seminoles would be given sole authority over online sports wagering according to the provisions of the compact signed into law by Governor DeSantis– but there’s a problem.

If the Seminoles would offer online sports betting across the state, does that affect the terms and conditions of IGRA? Experts say yes. If you’re unaware, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 specifically carved out gambling rights for federally recognized tribes whether or not the state surrounding the tribal land had laws for gambling. However, this also means that the Department of the Interior must approve any changes to tribal compacts to protect this source of revenue, and many believe that the federal government is unlikely to give Florida the green light.

Expert Opinion is that Federal Government Will Shoot Down Changes

One of the primary issues with putting the Seminole tribe in the drivers’ seat with regard to legal online sports betting is one of location. If servers offering online sports wagering are on tribal lands in Florida, many argue that this would be a violation of the terms of IGRA.

Florida sports betting law expert Daniel Wallach is quoted as saying “There is not a single instance on record of the US Department of Interior ever approving a tribal-state gaming compact that included mobile sports betting”. His opinion is that Florida is attempting to “rewrite IGRA”– if Florida gives the Seminole tribe complete authority to conduct online sports wagering statewide, that’s essentially changing the federal definition of “tribal lands” to include the entire state. It’s a bold move, and the mood among experts is that it won’t pay off.

However, should the Dept. of the Interior shoot down the online wagering aspect of this signed compact, that won’t bar the Seminoles from offering in-person wagering under a 30-year exclusivity agreement.

Anti-Gambling Lobbyists Claim Compact Violates FL Amendment 3

The federal government isn’t the only bump in the road for DeSantis and the Seminoles’ agreement: there is also a growing chorus of anti-gambling voices claiming that the agreement itself is a violation of Florida law. Amendment 3, passed in 2018, specifically states the following:

This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution.

And in Section B:

As used in this section, ‘casino gambling’ means any of the types of games typically found in casinos and that are within the definition of Class III gaming in the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act”.

Many lawmakers and lobbyists, including Democrats in the FL legislature, have stated that the text of the amendment also applies to sports betting, therefore meaning that DeSantis’ compact with the Seminoles expanded gambling without voter approval. Betting was supposed to go live by October 15th, but this slew of legal challenges is almost certain to delay sports wagering in the Sunshine State. Unfortunate news for eager bettors in Florida: the fight is far from over.

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Chris Altman

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

Chris Altman is a traveling writer and content specialist covering everything from betting to plane crashes. He has been working in sports betting, specifically legislation for some time now, covering industry developments and the legal landscape of sportsbooks in the U.S. Chris is also a published short story writer and zine editor. Email: [email protected]