As the court battle rages on, sports betting is still frozen throughout Florida and its future might not even be finalized with the decision from the latest lawsuit. The most likely scenario is that no matter what the outcome is, there will still be need for more time to refine regulation and jurisdictions. Even the most optimistic outlooks don’t see the matter settled by the year’s end.
Sports Betting Status in Florida Still Undecided
The Seminole Tribe was given control of sports betting throughout the state, and then it was taken away, leaving the future of sports betting for all Floridians up in the air. The US Department of the Interior (DOI) filed a brief on Wednesday, where it expressed its support of the original gambling agreement, which is currently still in court because a lawsuit battle began just months after the gambling compact was signed.
The Biden Administration weighed in again on Wednesday, following this, shifting its focus from what the compact allowed – in this case, sports betting in the State of Florida – to the fact that activities that don’t take place on Indian land shouldn’t and can’t be regulated by the compact signed back in April 23, 2021. Instead, that’s what state law is for.
This, however, brings under the spotlight an old issue that often pops up when online sports betting is pending regulation – where an online bet takes place. If the servers that process the bet are on tribal soil, but the player isn’t, then does the bet fall under the state law’s jurisdiction, or under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA)?
Each option has its drawbacks and benefits for all sides involved, but there isn’t an option that would satisfy both sides while also being airtight to exploitation. If a bet is considered to be taking place on tribal land simply because the processing servers are based there, then that would open up a dangerous precedent where absolutely all online gambling can be legal, as long as the servers powering it are situated in a place where online gambling is legal. If it’s decided that the bet takes place at the bettor’s location, then in this case the tribe wouldn’t be happy at all, as that would take away all of its bargaining power.
How Did We Even End Up Here?
The story of this compact is a very contentious one, so let’s recall how it all began. The Gaming Compact was signed by signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on April 23, 2021. It was then approved on a federal level on August 7. However, it didn’t take long for private casino owners in Florida to realize this would be taking potential business off their hands and filed a lawsuit to stop the compact in its tracks. A second federal lawsuit followed, arguing against the compact as well, this time put forward by Norman Braman – the auto retailer, and developer Armando Codina. A federal judge found that the compact isn’t in accordance with IGRA, as it also allowed mobile and online sports betting off tribal lands. This where the key issue of defining where a bet takes place comes in.
The Seminole Tribe had launched its sports betting app without much fanfare less than a month beforehand, and it was quickly shut down in the following month. The Seminole obviously appealed the order, but the damage was already done – sports betting wasn’t getting off the ground just with the power of the gaming compact from months ago.
The briefing schedule for the case against the DOI became widely available last month, and we had the DOI briefing on August 17 (Wednesday), and this is where things sit right now. It’s probably a safe bet to assume that this issue will not be resolved this year, as reply briefs for the federal government, as well as for the Seminole tribe, will be submitted mid-November, leaving little time for further developments within this year. However, the entire issue is riddled with conflicting financial interests, so it’s probably also a safe bet to assume that the ruling of this case will not be the only ingredient in Florida’s recipe for legal sports betting throughout the state.