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The Florida Attorney General's Office argues for the return of the Seminole Tribe gambling compact

guys with phones and drinks at a bar happy
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The compact said bets made anywhere in Florida “using a mobile app or other electronic device, shall be deemed to be exclusively conducted by the tribe."

Pointing to “enormous economic benefits,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office Wednesday urged a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling that blocked a gambling deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe.

Lawyers in Moody’s office filed a 32-page brief at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, arguing that a district judge erred last year when she ruled that the deal ran afoul of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which regulates gambling on tribal lands.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich focused on part of the agreement, known as a compact, that would have allowed the Seminole Tribe to operate sports betting in Florida.

The plan was designed to allow gamblers throughout the state to place bets online, with the bets run through computer servers on tribal property. The compact said bets made anywhere in Florida “using a mobile app or other electronic device, shall be deemed to be exclusively conducted by the tribe.”

But Friedrich said the deal violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act because it would allow gambling off tribal property. She ruled Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, whose agency oversees Indian gambling issues, erred when she allowed the deal to go into effect last summer.

The Department of the Interior this month urged the appeals court to reinstate the compact.

The state’s friend-of-the-court brief Wednesday also called for reinstatement, saying that betting off tribal property is addressed by state law. It said the judge’s conclusion included an incorrect premise that the “compact itself authorizes online sports betting throughout Florida. To the contrary, Florida state law independently authorizes such betting included in the compact, and whether that state law comports with Florida’s Constitution does not control whether the secretary’s deemed approval was lawful.”

The compact, negotiated by Gov. Ron DeSantis and ratified by the Legislature, was expected to bring in $2.5 billion for the state during the first five years. It also included allowing the tribe to offer craps and roulette at its casinos and to add three casinos on its property in Broward County.

“The 2021 compact provides enormous economic benefits to both the state of Florida and the tribe,” Wednesday’s brief said. “And that compact is lawful.”