Seminole Tribe of Florida will be ‘irreparably injured’ by federal ruling

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has defied a federal court ruling and continued to take online sports bets, citing that the tribe would be “irreparably injured” if it were to cease operations pending the outcome of an appeal. 

In a statement to the courts, Marcellus William Osceola Jr, chair of the tribe, responded to the Federal Court’s ruling that deemed Florida’s sports betting law – which gave the Seminole Tribe a de facto monopoly – violates federal Indian Gaming Law, instantly rendering sports betting illegal once again in the Sunshine State. 

Osceola Jr stated that, if it was not permitted to operate under the 2021 compact during an appeal, the state of Florida would “lose tens of millions [dollars] per month” in revenue sharing payments from tribe. 

“The tribe’s online sports betting authorised by the compact is now in operation, and is generating millions in revenue per week,’’ explained Osceola Jr.

“The tribe is using these funds to pay back the development costs for its online sportsbook, make revenue-sharing payments to the state and fund important tribal programmes. 

“The tribe would immediately lose the millions in online sports betting revenues the tribe is generating. As a result, many of these jobs and outsourced positions would be lost.”

Dismissing the argument that sports betting was occurring on tribal grounds because of the location of the server taking those bets, judge Dabney Friedrich ordered the 30-year gaming compact to be reverted back to its 2010 version. 

Since November 1, citizens of Florida had been allowed to bet and following the ruling by Friedrich, will no longer be able to do so. Moreover, it will further stop Seminole casinos offering roulette and craps to customers at venues, which Osceola Jr stated the tribe spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to implement from August 11, 2021 when the compact took effect, and leaves a $2.5bn hole in the state’s funding plans. 

In her judgement, Freidrich wrote: “Although the Compact ‘deem[s]’ all sports betting to occur at the location of the tribe’s ‘sports book[s]’ and supporting servers… this court cannot accept that fiction.

“When a federal statute authorises 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.”

Freidrich said that the state was welcome to come to a new compact with tribal leaders, so long as it did not violate federal law. Any expansion of gambling activities outside a tribal compact would require voter approval, something that FanDuel and DraftKings are already working towards.