- Florida casinos West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. are challenging a $2.5 billion gambling authorization deal between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
- The petitioners argue that the Governor and State Legislature violated the state’s constitution by allowing the expansion of casino gambling without obtaining approval from Florida voters via a constitutional amendment.
- The Seminole Gaming Compact grants exclusive rights to sports betting to the Seminole Tribe through a “hub-and-spoke” system.
Florida casinos are challenging a $2.5 billion gambling authorization deal struck between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, arguing that it violates the state’s constitution.
The petitioners, West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., claim in a petition filed with the state Supreme Court that the Governor and State Legislature exceeded its constitutional authority by allowing the expansion of casino gambling without obtaining the necessary approval from Florida voters via a constitutional amendment.
Within the document, the plaintiffs argue that in 2018, Florida’s passage of Amendment 3 imposed constraints on the Legislature’s authority to expand casino gambling operations. With the Seminole Gaming Compact’s adoption, the casinos argue that the state bypassed the necessary constitutional amendment process, which demands the backing of at least 60 percent of the state’s voters.
“In 2018, Florida voters approved Amendment 3 … Its purpose was to strictly limit the power of the legislature to expand casino gambling in Florida by mandating that the only means to do so is through a constitutional amendment authorizing such gambling,” reads the petition. “The 2021 Compact and Implementing Law are a clear expansion of casino gambling in Florida without a voter-approved constitutional amendment by citizens’ initiative, as required [Florida’s Constitution]. In so doing, the [State] has exceeded [its] authority in direct violation of the Florida Constitution.”
The compact grants the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to sports betting throughout Florida through a “hub-and-spoke” system that allows the Seminole tribe to accept sports bets from mobile devices across the state, processing them through servers situated on tribal lands.
“The Governor exceeded his authority by entering into a compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida granting the Tribe the exclusive right to offer off-reservation online and in-person sports betting throughout the entire state and by signing legislation ratifying the 2021 Compact and making such wagers legal statewide,” reads the petition for writ of quo warranto.
Pari-mutuel companies have also contested the compact at the federal level, alleging that it breaches the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which governs gambling on tribal lands. Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rebuffed a request to reassess the ongoing legal challenge.
“Upon consideration of appellees’ petition for rehearing en banc, the response thereto, and the absence of a request by any member of the court for a vote, it is ordered that the petition be denied,” reads the filing.
In a separate case earlier this year, an appeals court panel ruled in favor of the U.S. Department of the Interior, affirming the federal government’s adherence to regulations in approving the compact.
The ruling marked a reversal of the previous District Court decision, which nullified the Gaming Compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe. The prior decision argued that the compact contravened federal law and stated that the inclusion of a Seminole Tribe betting app, enabling bets to be placed from any location within the state, violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
Following ratification of the Gaming Compact, the Florida Seminole Tribe launched its Hard Rock Sportsbook app, allowing bettors to wager on game lines, spreads, futures, player props, and more. However, the platform was forced to shutter after the compact was initially struck down. The platform remains offline, though is anticipated to make a return pending forthcoming legal rulings.