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Seminole Tribe Seeks To Thwart Lawsuit Over Florida Gambling Deal

Sports Gambling-Florida
Wilfredo Lee
The Guitar Hotel at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood is illuminated at night in Hollywood, FL. Gov. Ron DeSantis reached an agreement with the Seminole Tribe in April to greatly expand gambling in the state, including the introduction of legalized sports wagering.

The Seminole Tribe is trying to scuttle a federal lawsuit challenging a new gambling deal with the state that calls for the tribe to operate sports betting in Florida.

Lawyers for the tribe on Tuesday filed court documents seeking to intervene in a lawsuit filed by two pari-mutuel facilities and arguing that the lawsuit should be dismissed.

Owners of Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida filed the lawsuit July 2 in Tallahassee, contending that a sports-betting plan that lawmakers passed in May violates federal laws. Lawmakers backed the plan as part of a gambling “compact” negotiated this spring by Gov. Ron DeSantis and tribal leaders.

The lawsuit named as defendants DeSantis and Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Julie Brown, whose agency oversees gambling issues.

But in the documents filed Tuesday, the Seminoles argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the tribe is an “indispensable party” in the challenge to the compact. Also, in arguing for dismissal, the tribe cited a right to sovereign immunity that helps shield it from lawsuits.

To seek dismissal, the tribe said it had to file a motion to formally intervene in the case. “The tribe is projected to realize profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars from sports betting over the life of the 2021 compact and those profits would be lost if the challenged provisions are invalidated,” the motion to dismiss said.

Under the compact, the Seminoles are slated to serve as the hub for sports betting, which in the past has been illegal in Florida. Gamblers throughout the state could place bets online, with the bets run through computer servers on tribal property.

The lawsuit contends, in part, that a law known as the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not authorize bets to be placed from off tribal lands. Also, the lawsuit argues that the structure of the plan is an attempt to get around a 2018 state constitutional amendment that requires voter approval of gambling expansions.

The owners of Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room also have filed a separate lawsuit in Washington, D.C., against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. The federal agency oversees Indian gambling issues and has signed off on the compact.