Many players were hoping that the Florida governor's and the Seminole Indians' gaming compact would be decided on quickly. Even so, the U.S. Court of Appeals recently decided on the compact that set back further consideration on the case. Now, it is difficult to predict when the court will make a decision, thus putting Florida's gaming sector in more confusion.
The Hearing Will Set the Schedule for March
The case is currently consolidated, and the judges only have one case to consider. The Court of Appeals ordered each attorney involved in the compact case to state how they want the case to proceed. It will hear the process on March 22 but will not make any actual hearings on this case.
Two parties have made appeals so far; the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Seminole Tribe. The Tribe wants the court to overturn the ruling that Judge Dabney Friedman made in November 2021 on the compact.
Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, and Marcellus Osceola, the Seminole Tribe's chairman, signed the gaming compact, and it would last for 30 years. It states that the Tribe will pay the state's government a minimum of $500 million annually for its gaming rights.
The Interior Department is responsible for supervising Indian gaming in the country. It filed an appeal since the Tribe questioned its oversight. Besides, the department had three months to deny or approve after the two parties signed the compact in 2021.
The U.S. Interior Department didn't make any move within the 90 days, thus allowing the deal to go through without review. The current uncertainty wouldn't be there if it made a distinct decision on time.
The Original Gaming Compact Case Started in 2015
Florida's gubernatorial leadership and the Seminole Tribe's original compact lapsed in 2015. Yet, a new deal wasn't sealed despite Rick Scott, the then Florida governor, and the Seminoles wanting the compact to continue. Even so, the Tribe continued paying $250 million annually to be the sole casino operator in Florida.
Unfortunately, simulcast outlets and poker rooms encroached on the lucrative gaming market and became a threat to the Seminoles. This made the Tribe threaten the governor that they would cease making yearly payments.
Floridians elected DeSantis as their new governor in 2018, and there was a drive to seal the compact deal. These efforts made Osceola and DeSantis sign a 30-year compact in April 2021, thus earning the state an extra $500 million each year.
The Florida General Assembly approved the compact and was to start taking effect last summer. Yet, poker rooms and horse tracks disliked some things in the deal. For example, it issued the Seminoles Tribe exclusive rights to offer mobile and live sports betting in Florida.
Gaming's expansion in the Sunshine state allowed bettors to wager on different sports from anywhere and not on Seminole property alone. The Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation that operates the Bonita Springs Poker Room and the West Flagler Associates that run the Magic City Casino opposed the expansion. They claimed that the Tribe's near-monopoly intended to restrict poker rooms and horse tracks from providing sports betting.
The two companies also cited Amendment 4's passage in 2018 and said that the Florida constitution states that Florida's voters need to approve the expansion of gaming before the leadership enacts it. Their attorneys claimed that the new sports gambling laws were supporting the expansion of gaming.
Judge Friedrich ruled in favor of Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation and West Flagler in November 2021 while citing the 2018 amendment and the federal government's inaction to decide about the compact's legality.
The ruling made the Seminole Tribe shut down its sportsbook operations and stopped accepting millions of sports wagers. But, the federal government and the Tribe later appealed the ruling.