Government Wants Seminole Tribe to Stay Out of Florida Sports Betting Appeal

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Oct 5, 2022 08:00 PM
Government Wants Seminole Tribe to Stay Out of Florida Sports Betting Appeal

It has been almost a year since the Florida sports betting appeal process was started. And yet, in all that time, there doesn't appear to be any substantial progress made.

Not only is online Florida sports betting still indefinitely tabled, but the push to legalize may actually be regressing.

Anyone who has followed this matter since November 2021 knows that the Florida government and Seminole tribe were working together to try reinstating their overturned gaming compact. Now, however, it appears the two sides no longer see eye to eye. 

To answer your question: Yes, that's a big problem.

This dissolution is sudden. It has caught even industry experts off guard. Optimists cling to the notion that the local government and the Seminole tribe still remain on the same side of the Florida sports betting appeal. But a recent filing indicates the government would prefer the Seminole tribe to back out of the proceedings, so they can tackle them alone. And the ramifications of this move could be huge.

Must the Seminole Tribe Now Sit Out the Florida Sports Betting Appeal?

Since last November, when a judge from the District Court overturned a version of legal sports betting in Florida that effectively only allowed wagers to be placed on tribal grounds, the Seminoles have been working closely with the Department of the Interior. Together, they argued that Florida sports betting should be restored, and that there was no reason to alter the 30-year gaming compact they signed with governor Ron DeSantis.

In the absence of progress, though, lawyers for the government have tried to separate themselves from the Tribe. Here is what the government lawyers said in a brief they filed with the Department of Justice, according to Gaming Today:

“While the federal government and the Tribe both seek reversal, the Tribe’s preferred path is in tension with circuit precedent and, if adopted, could functionally nullify the APA’s waiver of federal sovereign immunity in the wide swath of cases where federal agency action benefits a tribe or state that cannot be joined to litigation without consent. Thus, while this Court should reverse for the reasons stated in the government’s appeal, the district court’s denial of the Tribe’s motion should not be disturbed.”

You're not alone if you need this translated. Lawyer-speak is difficult to parse. In essence, this brief says the state still wants the original sports betting model re-implemented, but that they don't think the Seminole tribe needs to be part of the Florida sports betting appeal. On top of that, the government lawyers outright wrote that the Seminole tribe is not considered an "indispensable party" to the sports betting appeal process.

Such firm language leaves little doubt to the state's intent. They don't want the Seminole tribe—or their lawyers—participating in their attempts to bring back legal sports betting. The question is: Why?

The Florida Government May Be Showing Signs of Flexibility

Some have interpreted the government's shift in stance on the sports betting appeal as evidence they're willing to rework the gaming compact entirely. Though they claim to want the initial agreement restored, this maneuver puts distances between themselves and their supposed allies. In response, many have postulated that the Florida government may now want to start the entire process over and map out a sports betting blueprint that allows for wagering off-tribal lands—including online.

Others, meanwhile, suggest the state is merely trying to rectify an odd decision recently made by the Seminole tribe and their lawyers.

In a separate filing, the tribe pushed for online sports betting to be allowed on their properties, in addition to on-site gaming, and nowhere else. That sentiment doesn't align with the spirit of the initial gaming compact, which permitted on-site betting exclusively at Seminole tribal casinos and properties.

Online sports betting was not meant to be part of this equation. The Seminoles' attempt to justify it on their behalf has left many with an awkward taste in their mouth. Allowing online sports betting in certain parts of the state, on tribal properties, without offering it across the region is seen as unfair. Exclusively legalizing on-site sports betting is different. It is an attempt to drum up foot traffic, even for people who need to travel. But selectively allowing online access is slippery territory.

Florida Sports Betting Appeal May Be a Lost Cause

Frankly, we're not concerned with the latest development in the Florida sports betting appeal. This just feels like another wrinkle in a long line of issues that ultimately ends with Florida going back to the drawing board.

That has always been the most likely outcome to the Florida sports betting appeal. Hardly anyone thinks the Supreme Court will intervene and restore the original gaming compact. Most just assume that all parties involved will start making concessions after a long wait. That's probably the right call. While many don't think the Seminole tribe will ever budge from their push for exclusivity, they're at a gaming deficit right now. The original compact also covered roulette and craps, which limits their casino offerings at the moment.

Granted, this all no doubt comes as minimal comfort to Florida residents. They are still without legal sports betting, and it'll be a while before that changes. In the meantime, they have the option of journeying across state lines or signing up for an account with one of the sites that appears in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks.

Failing that, we'd recommend that Floridians strap in. Legal online sports betting in Florida still feels like it's years away.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one to use for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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