WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — The owners of the Magic City Casino are suing the U.S. Department of the Interior, asking a judge to stop The Seminole Tribe from rolling out sports betting across the State of Florida, after a deal with the state gave the tribe exclusive rights to all sports wagering statewide.
The suit argues the Seminole Tribe's deal violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which requires all Native American gambling take place on tribal lands. Attorneys for the casino argue all bets placed digitally and at pari mutuels across the state constitute bets not made on tribal lands.
The Seminole Tribe argues their sports betting is legal under IGRA because all bets are digitally funneled through servers places on tribal lands. Proponents of the compact point to states like New Jersey, which has similar gaming laws, and say the Seminoles are protected because the Department of the Interior signed off on the deal.
Legally, the tribe is allowed to accept bets as early as October 15th. A spokesperson said the rollout date has not been announced. A website for Hard Rock Sportsbook says betting is "coming soon."
"All [the Magic City Casino] has to prove is that [gaming is] off Indian land," said Daniel Wallach, a gaming attorney and critic of the Seminole Compact.
Critics, like Wallach, point to a 2018 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision on computerized bingo as evidence the Seminole deal may not be lawful. The court found a California Native American tribe violated federal law by allowing the game, because the bets did not "occur on Indian lands."
However, Scott Crowell, a lead attorney on that case who represents Native American tribes on gambling issues, says the court's decision wouldn't apply in Florida. He believes, because Florida's deal with the Seminole tribe essentially legalizes sports betting in the state, Florida wouldn't face the same issues as California, which has a law preventing all online gambling.
Crowell points to Colorado, which has a similar agreement with the Southern Ute Tribe, allowing sports bets to occur anywhere in the state as long as they're processed on servers housed on tribal lands.
"Its being operated under their [deal], with the server on Indian lands," Crowell told CBS 12 News in a May interview.
In their suit, the Magic City Casino owners name Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and argue her agency should not have approved the compact.
"While we are fully supportive of Governor DeSantis and his work to secure a new Seminole Compact, the lawsuit filed focuses on a very narrow aspect of the Compact – the legality of off-reservation and online sports wagering," said a spokesperson for Magic City Casino in a statement to CBS 12 News.
Opponents of the compact also argue it violates the Florida Constitution, which requires voters approve any expansion of gambling. DraftKings and FanDuel have already pledged to organize a ballot initiative to legalize sports betting across the state, taking away the Seminole's exclusivity.
Last month, a spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe told CBS12 News the tribe encourages Floridians to look at the entire, complete compact and not just the sports betting provision, arguing the deal gives stability to both Florida and the Seminole Tribe.
New TV ads from the Seminole Tribe tout the jobs the compact will bring to the state, adding the deal is "safe, legal, and trusted."