No Casinos claimed in an amicus brief to the state Supreme Court on Monday that allowing the Seminole Tribe of Florida to conduct sports betting through the controversial “hub-and-spoke” model would be “disrespectful” to the state constitution and Floridians.
No Casinos filed the brief in support of West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., two Florida pari-mutuels that have spent two years suing to squelch a 30-year gambling compact between the Seminoles and the State of Florida.
After a string of victories against the Department of the Interior — beginning with a federal judge shutting down the operation in December of 2021 — a US Court of Appeals DC Circuit panel reversed the ruling in late June.
West Flagler has since sought intervention in the highest Florida court and last week won an order from the US Supreme Court temporarily preventing the Seminoles from re-launching mobile sports betting in Florida. The Seminoles had given no indication anyway that they intended to resume taking wagers on the Hard Rock Bet app in Florida until all litigation ended.
West Flagler’s assertion before the Florida Supreme Court centers around its premise that Gov. Ron DeSantis and the State Legislature were beyond their purviews in negotiating and approving, respectively, the compact.
The hub-and-spoke model is key in every outcome, though. This concept would deem that bets are taken at the location of the computer server handling them, not the physical location of the bettor. This could be paradigm-changing for tribal gaming in the United States as compacts, which are overseen by the Department of the Interior, have only allowed for gambling on tribal lands.
“… the “hub and spoke” rationale for the Compact and the Implementing Law—“deeming” such gambling to be on Tribal land simply because computer servers are located there—is so transparently false and outcome driven that it is disrespectful to the Florida Constitution, as the organic and superior law of this State, and disrespectful to the voters who spoke unequivocally in favor of Amendment 3 in 2018. This Court should so hold. Notably, federal defendants in related litigation have taken the position that “under federal law, the location of the bettor determines where the bet is placed,” and that a tribal-state compact cannot, by fiat, change the location of the bettor.”
No Casinos foisted the words of DOI Secretary Deb Haaland in buttressing that point. DOI tacitly allowed the Florida compact to go into law without officially approving it.
No Casinos Path Straightforward as Motivations Divurge
No Casinos, fronted by president John Sowinski, has raised its profile in Florida as the champion of a successful 2018 constitutional amendment that requires any expansion of “casino gambling” to be put to a public vote. The group clearly sees the Seminoles’ addition of sports betting, craps, and roulette — albeit through the federal tribal compact process — as an expansion. Amendment 3 passed with 71% of the vote in 2018, but alliances and business models have since changed.
The measure was predominantly funded by the Seminole Tribe of Florida — at a time when out-of-state gambling companies were eyeing the state — and the Walt Disney Company before its family-friendly branding allowed for its sports wing, ESPN, to add its name to a sports betting app beginning this November.
No Casinos asked the Court on Oct. 5 to file a brief in support of West Flagler Associates and for 10 days to do so. The State of Florida has the right to respond and also to ask the Court for extra time.