Many players emerge against Florida’s sports betting compact, including in SWFL

There are billions of dollars at stake to bring sports gambling to the Sunshine State, but the owners of a gambling facility in Southwest Florida are among others in the state that want a judge to say all bets are off.

There are many players involved in this gambling saga, including, but not limited to, the State of Florida, the Seminole Tribe, the owners of Bonita Springs Poker Room and at least three new political action communities.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe smiled big when signing the dotted line in April, getting many excited about sports betting in the state.

In July, it’s become clear there are a lot of people, even companies, with gambling interests that are not excited at all.

“This is the nub of the problem in that it really creates a statewide monopoly for the Seminole Tribe,” explained Daniel Wallach, an attorney who specializes in gaming and sports betting law.

Wallach has read up on all the challenges to the new Florida gambling compact. He’s particularly interested in the newly formed political action committee backed by online fantasy sports platforms DraftKings and FanDuel. They want to let Florida voters decide — through a ballot initiative — if they can be players in Florida sports betting.

“This is going to be hands down the most expensive ballot campaign for any ballot measure in the history of Florida,” Wallach said.

The Bonita Springs Poker Room lawsuit argues the state’s compact violates federal law, specifically the section that says all bets placed online would run through servers on tribal property.

John Holden — who studies tribal gaming at Oklahoma State University — expects the governor to argue the owners of the poker room have no standing to even file a lawsuit.

“Even if he’s unsuccessful there, there’s still a fairly lengthy process before this lawsuit would succeed,” Holden said.

The big question centers around mobile betting. But there is a reason people are not betting on baseball and every other sport right in person on tribal property in the state at this time.: That’s because the federal government must approve Florida’s compact. That’s expected by the end of July.

As for the lawsuit, a spokesman for the Seminole Tribe told us he’s confident it complies with federal law.

The owners of Bonita Springs Poker Room believe that’s for a court to decide.

If the deal goes through, Florida’s share of the jackpot is $2.5 billion in the first five years.

Magic City Casino statement (owner of Bonita Springs Poker Room)

“While we are fully supportive of Governor DeSantis and his work to secure a new Seminole Compact, the lawsuit filed focuses on a very narrow aspect of the Compact – the legality of off reservation and online sports wagering. The question whether “deeming” a bet to be placed on the Tribe’s reservations because of the location of the servers is legally allowed even though the persons placing the wager are doing so from elsewhere in the state must be settled through the judicial system, as this contradicts the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the Wire Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) as well as court decisions interpreting these laws. The lawsuit filed will address these issues and we look forward to a swift legal process that focuses squarely on this topic within the Seminole Compact.”

Seminole Tribe statement

“The Seminole Tribe strongly believes the new Gaming Compact fully complies with all state and federal laws. It guarantees $2.5 billion in revenue sharing to the State of Florida in exchange for gaming exclusivity for the Tribe. It’s the largest guarantee by any gaming company in U.S. history.”

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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