Pari-mutuel owners want full court hearing on Seminole sports betting deal

by | Aug 15, 2023

  • Owners of two pari-mutuel facilities in Florida have asked for a full Washington, D.C. appeals court hearing after a three-judge panel upheld a deal giving the Seminole Tribe control over statewide sports betting.
  • A federal judge in 2021 initially ruled that the deal violated federal gambling laws, but a three-judge panel overturned the decision in June 2022, allowing the sports betting plan to proceed.
  • The pari-mutuels’ motion seeks a rehearing before the full appeals court, arguing that the panel’s decision is erroneous and conflicts with previous court rulings.

Two Florida pari-mutuel facilities, Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida, requested a hearing before a full Washington, D.C. appeals court on Monday, arguing that the court’s previous ruling gives the Seminole Tribe a statewide gaming monopoly. The request comes after a three-judge panel upheld an agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe, giving the Seminoles complete control over sports betting throughout the state.

In 2021, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that the 30-year agreement, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., violated federal gambling laws. The agreement would have given the tribe control over sports betting statewide and required the Seminoles to pay the state at least $2.5 billion a year for the first five years, and possibly billions more over three decades.

Under the Seminole Tribe’s “hub-and-spoke” plan, gamblers could place bets online through computer servers located on tribal property, with bets conducted exclusively by the tribe. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland permitted the compact to take effect, but a federal court ruled in November 2021 that the plan violated the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act because it would allow gambling off Seminole-owned property.

But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned Friedrich’s decision in June, unanimously finding that the compact authorized gambling both on and off Indian lands.

“It’s important to note the three-Judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a unanimous decision in favor of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which approved the Gaming Compact between the Seminole Tribe and the State of Florida.,” said Seminole Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner in an emailed statement to The Capitolist on Tuesday morning.

In requesting a full court hearing, lawyers for the pari-mutuels argued that the panel’s decision was flawed and would lead to confusion. They pointed out that the decision conflicted with previous court rulings and would essentially grant the tribe a statewide monopoly on gaming, as long as some gaming occurred on tribal land.


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