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Pari-mutuel urges DoI to block Florida sports betting in new lawsuit


A Florida-based pari-mutuel betting operator has filed a suit calling for the US federal government to block online sports betting in Florida.

The case has been filed on the grounds that the tribal compact permitting statewide betting violates federal law and the state constitution.

The compact in question was approved by the state legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis in May, before receiving approval from the Department of the Interior last month. It would allow online sports bets to be placed from anywhere in the state with servers located on the Seminole Tribe’s lands in a so-called “wheel-and-spoke” model.

The suit – filed by West Flagler Associates in the US District Court of Columbia – alleges that offering statewide online sports betting through servers on tribal lands cannot be considered as betting on tribal lands.

As a result, West Flagler argues that it violates the state constitution, which states that any expansion beyond tribal lands must be approved via a referendum and should not have been approved by the Department of the Interior.

In addition, West Flagler argued that it would suffer “irreparable harm” from the launch of statewide mobile betting.

West Flagler argued that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act makes clear that tribal bets must be placed on tribal land, and that the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe cannot change the boundaries of tribal land or “convert gaming that occurs off tribal land to gaming that occurs on tribal land”.

It added that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 made clear that placing a bet from a jurisdiction in the US where online betting is prohibited is considered illegal gambling, regardless of where the bet is processed.

It goes on to say that – by allowing bets to be placed from non-tribal jurisdictions of Florida, where betting not approved by referendum would be prohibited, and be processed on tribal land – the compact would be in violation of both the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 and the Wire Act.

West Flagler added that the compact would be in violation of the Equal protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, by allowing a tribe the ability to legally take part in an activity that would be criminal for other groups.

It calls for either summary judgement to dismiss the compact entirely, or – failing that – injunctive relief to temporarily block sports betting while a full trial is held.