Florida sports betting is facing a second legal challenge after two of Miami’s most outspoken critics of gambling filed a lawsuit against the US Secretary of the Interior on Monday in an attempt to block the process.
Off-Reservation Gambling Illegal
Backed by auto retailer Norman Braman and developer Armando Codina, the suit against US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland claims the federal approval on the gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe allowed the state to circumvent Florida Constitution to authorize illegal off-reservation sports betting.
Further, the lawsuit alleges both Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state legislature are in violation of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and the federal Wire Act, as they authorized gambling outside of tribal lands via interstate payment transmissions or the internet to legalize illegal off-reservation gambling.
Moreover, the state compact provision that allows the Seminole Tribe to outsource its sportsbook operations to pari-mutuel operators is in violation of IGRA, as it is more likely to enrich non-tribal interests than to protect Native American sovereign rights and interests. Hence, the lawsuit requests the court to block the deal.
The lawsuit followed hot in the heels of another lawsuit filed last month by West Flagler Associates, a company that operates Miami’s Magic City Casino, and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., which operates Bonita Springs Poker Room, an affiliate of Magic City’s in Bonita Springs.
The lawsuit, which also requested the court to block the implementation of online sports betting for violating IGRA, the Wire Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), saw a motion for summary judgment filed Monday in the Northern District of Florida by West Flagler, asking the court to block the expected for November 15 launch of online sports betting by the tribe.
Harm to Their Businesses
Unlike the first lawsuit, the second one pursues another agenda, as Braman and Codina claim online sports betting and its compact provisions will incur harm to their businesses by “increasing neighborhood traffic, increasing neighborhood congestion, increasing criminal activity, reducing open spaces, and reducing property values.”
Both entrepreneurs strongly resist legislative initiatives to preempt local governments that oppose casino expansion in South Florida like the cities of Miami Beach and Doral, which have passed city ordinances prohibiting casino gambling unless voters approve, believing the state is looking for ways to authorize casino owners to transfer gambling licenses to venues which already banned gambling.
In Miami Beach, Jeff Soffer, owner of the Fontainebleau hotel and resorts, has sought for years to acquire gaming rights, while in Doral, the Trump Organization is aggressively lobbying for legislation that will allow the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort to receive a transferred casino license.
Braman and Codina believe preempting voter approval is an ominous development that illegally takes away the power of citizens since Amendment 3 to the state Constitution “gives to the citizens of our state the decision to expand gambling, not the politicians,” Braman stated.
First indications about the direction of both lawsuits will be given November 5, as the federal court scheduled a hearing for oral arguments on the motion for summary judgment filed by West Flagler.