Owners of two Florida pari-mutuel facilities on Monday asked a full Washington, D.C. appeals court for a hearing after a three-judge panel upheld a deal giving the Seminole Tribe control of sports betting throughout the state.
A federal judge in 2021 ruled that the deal violated federal gambling laws, siding with owners of Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida.
But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in June overturned U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich’s decision and gave a go-ahead to the sports-betting plan.
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The pari-mutuels’ motion Monday sought a rehearing before the full appeals court, a request known as seeking an “en banc” hearing.
The pari-mutuels filed the lawsuit after Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. in 2021 signed a 30-year agreement giving the tribe control over sports betting throughout the state.
Under the agreement, the Seminoles agreed to pay the state at least $2.5 billion a year for the first five years and possibly billions of dollars more over three decades. The “hub-and-spoke” sports-betting plan was designed to allow gamblers anywhere in the state to place bets online, with the bets run through computer servers on tribal property.
The deal, known as a compact, said bets “using a mobile app or other electronic device, shall be deemed to be exclusively conducted by the tribe.” U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland allowed the compact to go into effect, but Friedrich in November 2021, ruled that the plan ran afoul of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which regulates gambling on tribal lands, because it would allow gambling off property owned by the Seminoles.
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But the three-judge panel in June unanimously found that Friedrich erred because the compact authorized gambling “both on and off” Indian lands.
In Monday’s request for a full court hearing, lawyers for the pari-mutuels argued the panel’s decision “is erroneous and will create confusion,” in part because it conflicted with previous court rulings. “The net effect of the opinion is that a tribe and state may now contract to give the tribe a statewide monopoly on gaming off of Indian lands so long as some of the gaming also occurs on at least one square foot of Indian land,” the motion said.
In a statement provided Monday to The News Service of Florida, Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the tribe, pointed to the court’s June decision. “It’s important to note the three-judge panel … 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,” Bitner said in an email.
The Seminoles briefly rolled out the Hard Rock SportsBook mobile app amid the legal wrangling but stopped accepting wagers and deposits on the app in December 2021 amid the legal fight.
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