Florida, Seminole Tribe Gets Federal Approval for Sports Betting

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The Federal authority on Friday allowed the gaming compact between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe, paving the way for the sports betting launch by Oct. 15.

Unless a federal court intervenes, the passive decision by the Department of Interior will make Florida the largest state in the nation with legal sports betting when the compact takes effect.

The 30-year gaming compact, which contains mobile betting, was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. in May

From the outset, the compact was feared to face legal challenges due to its mobile betting factor at the tribal gaming facility. The first lawsuit was filed in July.

But the federal approval is a major victory for the Seminole Tribe – the exclusive sports betting authority in Florida.

How Did Federal Authority Approve Florida Gaming Pact?

After a thorough review, the federal regulator informed Mr. Osceola that Seminole Tribe’s Class III gaming compact with the state complies with existing federal law and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

The Department of Interior had 45 days to decide to approve, reject, or take no action on the gaming pact. All the options other than clear rejection lead to the passage of the pact.

The Department of Interior chose to take “no action” to approve or disapprove the compact by Aug. 5, the 45th day of the review period, thus clearing the way for its approval.

In a 12-page letter released Friday, the Interior Department said that the Compact is deemed to have been approved by the operation of law as it complies with IGRA and existing federal law.

The compact could be effective next week after it is published in the Federal Register. According to law, the notice must be published within 90 days following the conclusion of the review period.

What Did the Governor Say?

Immediately following the federal approval, Gov Ron DeSantis said in a statement, “The final approval of this historic gaming compact is a big deal for the State of Florida.”

He added that the mutually beneficial compact will grow the state economy, besides expanding tourism and providing billions in new revenue to benefit the state residents.

Unless a federal court steps in, The Sunshine State will become the largest jurisdiction in the US with regulated sports betting when the compact becomes effective. The gaming pact has been considered as a key political victory for the governor, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2024.

DeSantis-led gaming deal with the tribe guarantees the State of Florida $2.5 billion in revenue over the next five years. The deal was pushed for passage in the legislature through a special session in May.

Legal Challenges Were Imminent

From the outset, lawmakers realized the Florida gaming pact would pose legal challenges. The first lawsuit against the Florida gaming compact was filed by the Magic City Casino and the Bonita Springs Poker Room on July 2.

The federal suit claimed any deal allowing sports betting outside of tribal lands contradicts the IGRA. The compact allows sports wagering off the tribal land and away from their casinos by a “hub-and-spoke” approach. It means the servers that process bets are based on the Indian land, even though betting would be located anywhere within the jurisdiction of the state.

While leading commercial sportsbooks – such as FanDuel and DraftKings – are likely to mount a legal challenge, the approval of the renegotiated compact on Friday is a huge victory for the Seminoles.

FanDuel, DraftKings Take Initiative to Make it More Competitive

FanDuel and DraftKings each have contributed $10 million to a ballot initiative to make Florida sports betting a competitive sports betting market through commercial online operators outside of the Seminole Tribe.

The state passed an amendment in 2018, mandating that any expansion of gaming in Florida outside tribal lands must be approved by 60% of the voters through a referendum.

Now, FanDuel and DraftKings are leading to bring that initiative on the 2022 ballot, asking voters to allow mobile sports betting at professional sports venues and pari-mutuel facilities.

The initiative requires at least 877,263 signatures to reach the ballot stage.

The gaming companies spent nearly $62 million in June on various ballot initiatives related to gaming.

Meanwhile, the 30-year gaming pact between the Seminole Tribe and the state is exclusive and doesn’t allow third-party partnerships.

All those who are 21 or above will be able to place legal bets through the tribe on college and professional sports, national and international events, and motor racing. However, prop bets on college games are not allowed.

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