A federal judge has struck down a gambling deal between Florida and the Seminole Tribe to allow online sports betting in the state.
In a ruling Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich said the multi-billion dollar agreement for online betting violated a federal rule that requires a person to be physically on tribal land when wagering.
The lawsuit, filed by casino owners in Florida, challenged the approval of the agreement by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gambling operations.
"The Seminole Tribe is reviewing the Judge’s opinion and carefully considering its next steps," Gary Bitner, the tribe's spokesperson, told Indian Country Today.
A spokesman for the Interior Department declined to comment.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis had worked out the compact with the tribe earlier this year and the GOP-controlled legislature approved it soon after, with the state potentially receiving $20 billion over the next 30 years. Supporters argued that it adhered to federal rules because online bets, though they could be placed anywhere in the state, were still being processed on tribal lands.
Friedrich, in her ruling, called that a “fiction," writing “When a federal statute authorizes an activity only at specific locations, parties may not evade that limitation by ‘deeming’ their activity to occur where it, as a factual matter, does not.”
Critics of the deal cheered its rejection, arguing that the compact also violates a constitutional requirement that prevents the expansion of gambling outside of tribal lands without voter approval. Miami billionaire Norman Braman, who has led a years-long battle against expanded gambling in Florida, called the decision a “big win for our community and our state.”
The judge’s decision also blocks the tribe from adding roulette and craps to its Florida casinos.
DeSantis said he expects an appeal in the case.
Indian Country Today’s Carina Dominguez contributed to this report.