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Feds File Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Florida Sports Betting

The legal team representing the federal government in the lawsuit filed by the two Florida pari-mutuel facilities about the sports betting aspect of the state’s new gaming compact are asking the judge to throw the case out of court.

The family that owns Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room is suing the U.S. Department of Interior, the federal agency that approved the new 30-year compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe, claiming that the “hub-and-spoke” model of sports betting laid out in the agreement violates federal law.

The legal team defending the DOI has officially filed paperwork to dismiss the case, according to a report from a local Miami CBS affiliate.

“At most, plaintiffs identify highly speculative, hypothetical injuries that turn in part on plaintiffs’ own decision whether to participate in the online sports betting program to which they object,” wrote lawyers for the Biden administration in the paperwork filed Tuesday in federal court. “Such contentions fail to establish standing and thus this suit must be dismissed.”

The Havenick family, which owns both properties that are suing the state, filed a lawsuit at the state level in July before filing one at the federal level in August. The lawsuit argues that since the sports betting model violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and will have a “significant and devastating impact” on pari-mutuels.

The “hub-and-spoke” mode allows the tribe to act as the center piece of the entire Florida sports betting market, as well as the sole provider of online betting. By allowing anyone in the state to place an online wager in a Seminole-owned online sportsbook, the plaintiffs contend that it violates the IGRA because the bettor isn’t on tribal land when placing the bet.

The Seminoles argued that since the servers are located on their land, the model is still in compliance with federal standards.

Aside from being the only game in town for online betting, the tribe would also have a piece of all retail betting. Any pari-mutuel that wants to open a brick-and-mortar sportsbook must do so as a contracted vendor of the Seminole Tribe. The tribe would take 40% of the revenue generated from each facility and pay 10% of that number to the state government. The pari-mutuel would keep the remaining 60%.

Lawyers for the plaintiff claim that since the compact was passed through inaction, which means that Secretary Deb Haaland didn’t explicitly approve it with her signature and instead allowed the 45-day window to pass without approval or denial, the compact is only approved for what is consistent with current legal standards.

In essence, since it passed through inaction, it can’t possibly violate the IGRA. Because anything that violates the IGRA wouldn’t be allowed.

“In any event, if plaintiffs are correct that certain provisions of this compact are contrary to IGRA, then under their own theory, those provisions are not actually deemed approved. As a result, the secretary could not have made the allegedly unlawful approvals,” lawyers wrote in the filing.

Gov. Ron DeSantis filed similar paperwork to deal with the Havenick family’s state-level lawsuit.

Other portions of the compact allowed the Seminoles to offer expanded gaming options in their multiple casinos throughout the state. That portion of the compact isn’t in contention from the Havenick family, but a group of South Florida entrepreneurs partnered with an anti-gambling coalition to start a legal battle against that aspect of the agreement.