The Seminole Tribe appeals against a request to prevent the expansion of gambling

The Seminole Tribe appeals against a request to prevent the expansion of gambling

Tallahassee Florida. The Florida Seminole tribe moved on Tuesday to appeal a federal judge’s decision to block its deal with the state to expand online sports betting and gambling across Florida.

In a ruling issued late Monday, US District Judge Dabney Friedrich found that the multibillion-dollar agreement between state and tribe that allows online betting violates a federal rule that requires a person to be physically on tribal land when betting. The lawsuit, brought by non-Indian casino owners in Florida, challenged approval of the agreement by the US Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gambling operations.

The state and the tribe argued that because the computer servers processing the bets would be on tribal lands, bettors could bet from their phones or booths at non-Indian racetracks and casinos anywhere in the state and meet federal standards.

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Justice Friedrich, in her ruling, called this a “fantasy,” writing “when a federal law authorizes an activity in specific locations only, parties may not evade this limitation by ‘considering’ their activity to take place where, realistically, it does not.”

The tribe began taking bets on November 1, making Florida for a while the latest state to legalize sports gambling since the Supreme Court ruling in 2018. It lifted the federal ban on such bets outside of Nevada and a few other states. Today, nearly half of the states and the District of Columbia have embarked on sports betting in some form.

The judge, who was appointed to the District Court of Columbia in 2017 by former President Donald Trump, also noted that the state’s 2018 constitutional amendment passed overwhelmingly by voters requires voter approval for any expansion of gambling beyond tribal lands.

The judge’s decision also prevents the tribe from adding roulette and craps to its Florida casinos – which may have allowed non-Indian casinos to do the same.


Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis reached the agreement with the tribe earlier this year and it was approved by the Republican-controlled legislature soon after, with the state likely to receive $20 billion over the next 30 years.

Critics of the deal welcomed its rejection, arguing that the deal also violated a constitutional requirement that prevents gambling from expanding outside tribal lands without voter consent. Miami billionaire Norman Braman, who led a years-long battle against expanded gambling in Florida, called the decision “a huge win for our community and state.”

He said the ultimate goal of the agreement was not just to allow sports betting, but to allow casinos to open in Miami Beach, downtown Miami, the Trump Golf Resort near Miami and elsewhere across the state. That would harm the quality of life in the state, increase crime, and divert some of its cities into other Las Vegas, he said.


“This is not the state of Florida,” Braman said. “We are growing here. People are coming to our state and our community. We are developing a high-tech industry here. Casino gambling and an extension of gambling is not all that this community is about.”


Spencer reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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