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Seminole Tribe Files Motion To Dismiss Lawsuit Against New State Gambling Compact

Counsel For The Tribe Argue That The Tribe Can't Defend Itself In Court, Citing Its Status As A Sovereign Nation

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The Seminole Tribe of Florida filed paperwork Tuesday to dismiss the lawsuits filed by a pair of pari-mutuel facilities that is threatening to kill the sports betting section of the state’s new 30-year gaming compact.

The compact, which was negotiated by Gov. Ron DeSantis with the tribe, and passed by the state legislature last April, would allow the Seminoles to act as the hub for all sports betting in the state through the “hub-and-spoke model.”

In the model, both the tribe and pari-mutuels would be allowed to offer brick-and-mortar sports betting, but only the Seminole Tribe would be allowed to accept wagers online.

Furthermore, any pari-mutuel that wants to run a sportsbook would have to fork over 40% of its revenue to the Seminoles, who would pay a 10% tax on that cash to the state, in addition to a piece of its own revenue. The pari-mutuels would keep the remaining 60% tax-free.

Pari-mutuels would also not be allowed to accept cash wagers. According to the Havenick family, who owns the two pari-mutuel facilities suing the Department of the Interior for allowing the compact to pass, claim that these rules violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and also has a “significant and potentially devastating effect” on their businesses.

In July, the owners of Bonita Springs Poker Room and Magic City Casino filed a federal lawsuit in Tallahassee arguing that the agreement violated existing laws. After the Department of Interior, the federal agency that deals with all tribal affairs, passed the compact through inaction, a second suit was filed, this time against Secretary Deb Haaland and the rest of the DOI.

According to a report from Florida Phoenix, the tribal nation argues that the case must be dismissed because it is an “indispensable party” and also immune from the lawsuit citing it’s federally recognized tribe and a sovereign nation. The legal team for the Seminoles say that since it is a sovereign nation, it is thus unable to defend its interests in court and the case should be dismissed.

“The tribe is projected to realize profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars from sports betting over the life of the 2021 compact and those profits would be lost if the unchallenged provisions are invalidated,” read the motion to dismiss.

Other parts of the deal, such as the expanded gaming options at both tribal casinos and pari-mutuel facilities, are not under review and will be implemented smoothly this fall. Seminole casinos will be permitted to offer Class III gaming, like craps and roulette, while the pari-mutuels will spread house-backed card games similar to blackjack.