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State-Level Lawsuit Over Florida Sports Betting Dismissed By Judge

U.S. District Judge In Tallahassee Threw Out First Of Three Legal Battles Facing The Seminole Tribe Over New 30-Year Gaming Compact

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The first of three lawsuits against Florida’s new gaming compact has been tossed out of court.

West Flagler Associates, the Havenick family-owned company that controls the two pari-mutuel facilities contesting the sports betting section of the new 30-year agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe, had its suit at the state-level tossed out of court by a federal judge in Tallahassee.

U.S. District Court Judge Allen Winsor ruled Monday that the company didn’t have the legal standing to sue Gov. Ron DeSantis because it failed to prove that by signing the new compact, DeSantis was hurting the pari-mutuels.

The legal team representing Flagler claimed that the “hub-and-spoke” model that the state is planning to implement both hurt the pari-mutuel business and violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

In the model, the Seminole Tribe would serve as the hub for the state’s new betting industry. It would force all pari-mutuels to operate as a contracted vendor to the tribe and collect 40% of revenue generated at those properties. Pari-mutuels would not be allowed to accept cash wagers and would be forced to give the Seminoles 40% of its sportsbook revenue.

From an online perspective, they argued that since only the Tribe would be permitted to offer online betting options, and that gamblers could wager from anywhere in the state, it was in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory act, which forces gamblers to be on Indian land when placing a wager.

While Winsor gave the state and the tribe its first legal victory, there are still two more legal battles standing in the way of the Sunshine State’s gambling expansion at the federal level.

According to a report from the Tampa Bay Times, those lawsuits are more important to the implementation. Daniel Wallach, a Florida-based attorney that specializes in gaming and sports betting, said that since the federal lawsuits are directed at the government body that approved the compact, it should have more of an impact.

“The proper defendant is and has always been the Department of the Interior,” said Wallach. “The reason why D.C. is so important is that the federal courts in Washington D.C. have recognized the standing of competitors to challenge federal agency approval of tribal gaming compacts.”

West Flagler Associates filed its federal suit in August, a month after it filed its first lawsuit at the state level. At the end of September, an anti-casino lobbying group No Casinos also filed a federal lawsuit against other aspects of the new compact. The group claimed the implementation of craps, roulette and other games would hurt property value and was in violation of Amendment 3, a ballot initiative passed in 2018 which gave voters the right to decide on any future gambling expansion.

Like West Flagler’s suit, the one filed by No Casinos is also listing the Department of Interior as the defendant.

The Federal government recently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by West Flagler Associates at the end of September. The U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. is scheduled to hear oral arguments for both cases on Nov. 5.