The Department of the Interior Opposes the Hearing of a Lawsuit on Florida and the Seminole Tribe’s Gaming Compact

The Department of the Interior (DOI) urged the DC Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Thursday to decline rehearing a lawsuit on Florida’s gaming deal with the Seminole Tribe. This was a response to West Flagler’s rehearing petition in the 11 judges. It challenges the gaming agreement’s addition of online sports gambling on the country’s tribal lands.

DC Circuit Court judges will decide when they will hold the rehearing. Their decision’s promptness will determine whether the Seminole Tribe will relaunch sports gambling in Florida before the next National Football League (NFL) season begins.

How the DOI Responded

West Flagler is a successful casino operator in Florida that sued Deb Haaland, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, in 2021 for allowing the compact to sail through despite allowing gaming outside tribal lands. Still, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was passed to control gaming on Indian tribes’ land.

Federal District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich declared in November 2021 that the deal contravened IGRA. Yet, the DC Circuit overturned her ruling on June 30 adding that the District Court shouldn’t have invalidated Florida’s gaming deal.

West Flagler wanted a rehearing claiming that the DC Circuit’s ruling triggered a debate on the IGRA’s scope. The court wanted the appellant to file their response without stating whether it should be from the Seminole Tribe or DOI.

Even so, the order considered the Native tribe as the “appellant. Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim gave the response. The DOI also responded stating that West Flagler sued the Secretary of the Interior who doesn’t control the state’s decisions regarding gaming on all non-Indian lands.

The Secretary didn’t oppose the gaming compact or address how the Seminoles would handle state-sanctioned bets players place on non-Indian land once they receive them on their servers. The DOI added that West Flagler’s accusations aren’t factual as the secretary lacks the mandate to legalize the types of bets a gaming operator can accept.

Does IGRA Have Restrictions?

The DC Circuit’s ruling is crucial in regulating online gaming on tribal lands. IGRA has controlled it for a long period on lands that the federal government or state agree on with Native tribes in gaming compacts.

Online gaming is encouraging tribes to expand their online client base hence testing IGRA’s limits as the gaming industry evolves. The Seminole Tribe’s agreement was the first tribal-state compact that the DOI reviewed to incorporate online sports gambling.

It didn’t act on the compact hence allowing it to start being implemented. Bryan New land from the DOI’s Bureau of Indian Affairs stated that the Secretary cannot regulate gaming off Indian lands.

IGRA doesn’t restrict agreements to betting on Indian land alone since they can be between the state and tribes. So, the state can allow gaming on non-Indian land without the Secretary’s approval.


A sports enthusiast, Ryan helps cover sports betting news from around the country, highlighting some of the more interesting events going on in the USA.