Sports Betting in Florida Takes a Step Back after a Federal Judge’s Decision

By now, more than half of the US states have legalized and launched some form of sports betting. While those states enjoy the benefits of increased tax revenue and the reduced black market, others are yet to launch the activity. Florida is one of the states where sports betting continues to face difficulties.

Florida Puts Sports Betting on Hold

Sports betting in Florida has seen quite a few hurdles. It was back in May when lawmakers in the state voted to approve the activity. However, the legal challenges did not end, considering that Magic City owners filed a lawsuit against Florida’s gaming compact back in August.

Regardless, the activity was launched by the Seminole Tribe at the beginning of November. This effectively resulted in statewide mobile sports betting offering by the Tribe. However, on Monday this week, a federal judge has put the activity on hold, at least for the moment.

Federal Judge Rules That the Gaming Compact Violates IGRA

According to US District Judge Dabney Friedrich, the gaming compact between the State and the Seminole Tribe violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). As a result, for the moment, Judge Friedrich has put a hold on the sports betting activity in the state. The Judge explained that currently, sports betting is offered statewide via any smartphone or laptop, however, IGRA limits the activity to being offered only on tribal lands. This in other words means that the rule was violated.

Sports betting was offered statewide but it was explained that the sports betting servers of the Tribe are located within tribal lands. Although this sounds reasonable and in line with IGRA, Judge Friedrich disagreed. She deemed the explanation as “fiction” and said that the court cannot accept it. Additionally, Judge Friedrich explained that the law limits the activity to a specific location and involved parties cannot “evade that limitation.”

The Future of Sports Betting in Florida Remains Unclear

Federal authorities had a period of nearly two months to either approve or reject the gambling compact. Once that period had passed, it was deemed that the compact was in line with IGRA regulations. Some $2.5 billion were expected to be paid in the first 5 years of the 30-year gaming compact that was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis. In exchange, the compact allowed the Seminole tribe to introduce craps and roulette table games and roll out sports betting in Florida.

With that in mind, the recent ruling represents another hurdle for sports betting in the state. What will happen next remains unclear. An appeal may be filed with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals against Judge Friedrich’s decision. However, a course of action from the Department of Interior or Seminole Gaming is yet to be confirmed.

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