Seminole Tribe rails against Florida legal ruling in new oral argument
Hard Rock Digital operator cites legal dispute as potentially stopping tribes from getting “indispensable” funding from online sports betting launches
The Seminole Tribe of Florida has warned of dire consequences for tribal operators across the US if a court ruling invalidating a 2021 gambling compact with the state is upheld by the Washington DC circuit courts.
In an amicus curiae brief filed by the tribe this week as part of the case, the Seminoles claim the November 2021 ruling poses a significant financial threat to necessary ongoing revenue required by US tribes.
In the 32-page document, the Seminoles argue that the US gambling industry is moving “inexorably” online, especially in respect of sports betting, and that any measures to deny tribes access to this revenue stream could be catastrophic.
“The District Court’s interpretation of IGRA [Indian Gaming Regulatory Act] effectively erects a wall around tribal lands and prevents tribes from keeping pace with online advancements in the gaming industry,” the brief states.
“As with everything else in the 21st century economy of the United States, the gaming industry is inexorably and undeniably moving online.
“There is no doubt that tribes must be able to participate in online gaming in order to stay competitive and protect this indispensable source of essential government funding that they depend on,” the brief adds.
The Seminoles signed a new 30-year gambling compact with the state in May 2021, only for the US District Court to ask the state to “vacate” the compact just six months later, declaring it to be in contravention of the IGRA after a number of cardroom operators challenged the compact’s validity.
A central axiom of the case is a so-called ‘hub and spoke’ model, which funnels sports betting transactions through servers located on tribal land.
The prior court ruling outlaws sports bets placed through on-reservation servers, however the tribe has argued in its new brief that there is no bar in federal law to the tribe receiving bets placed remotely as long as approved by the state, something which has already been given.
The Seminole Tribe, which operates the Hard Rock Digital sportsbook, had previously launched in the state, only to shutter its operations there following the ruling.
Since then, a bitter war of words has taken place in the state and in the courts with competing legislative initiatives fighting for supremacy against the backdrop of this legal challenge currently being debated in circuit courts in Washington DC.
In its new brief, the Seminoles argue that the so-called “jurisdiction allocation provisions” allow the tribe to regulate sports bets that are placed outside its reservation, with state approval, pointing to the examples of states where bets are deemed to originate wherever they are received.
“Nationwide gaming revenue is not ordinary business revenue, but it is rather a source of essential funds that is needed because most tribes do not receive sufficient federal funds from the United States to operate their governmental programs and are not able to generate such funds through a tax base as other sovereigns do to make up the difference,” the brief states.
According to the timetable set out by the Washington DC Circuit, the other party in the dispute, West Flagler Associates, must file their own amicus brief by October 6, with a court hearing on November 14 and oral arguments soon after.
It is expected that no decision will be made on the case until the early part of 2023.