Supreme Court stays lower court ruling on Seminole gambling plan

 October 13, 2023

CBS News reported that the United States Supreme Court dealt Florida's Seminole Tribe a legal setback this week in the area of gambling. 

At issue is a ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia earlier this year which approved a deal between Florida and the tribe to offer sports betting statewide.

Plan allows bets to be placed via mobile phones

Thursday saw Chief Justice John Roberts issue a stay on that ruling in response to a request from West Flagler Associates and the Bonita-Fort Myers Corp.

Both entities are pari-mutuel companies specializing in sports wagering, and they filed a lawsuit in 2021 challenging a compact signed by Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr.

Under the agreement's terms, gamblers are permitted to place bets via mobile phones anywhere in the state using computer servers located on the tribe's property.

The deal specifies that wagers placed "using a mobile app or other electronic device, shall be deemed to be exclusively conducted by the tribe."

Plaintiffs say deal violates state constitution and federal law

The companies maintain that the agreement was drafted in order to illegally circumvent a 2018 Florida constitutional amendment which requires voters to approve casino gambling.

What's more, they also argue that the plan violates the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) as it authorizes gambling outside of tribal territory.

This is despite the fact that it was permitted to go into effect by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which regulates gaming on tribal lands.

While U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich shot down the plan in November of 2021, his ruling was reversed by a panel of the appeals court in June.

Gaming companies contend that case "raises a question of nationwide importance"

CBS News quoted it as saying that the "IGRA does not prohibit a gaming compact - which is, at bottom, an agreement between a tribe and a state - from discussing other topics, including those governing activities 'outside Indian lands."

However, filing by the companies argued, "The circuit (appeals court) opinion raises a question of nationwide importance regarding the ability of states and tribes to use IGRA compacts to provide for gaming off Indian lands."

"Absent a stay, the compact will give rise to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of sports betting transactions that violate both state and federal law before this (Supreme) Court has the opportunity to address the merits," it continued.

"The circuit opinion enables a dramatic change in public policy on legalized gaming that, once started, may be difficult to stop," the request added.

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Thomas Jefferson
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