Federal Judge Dismisses Florida Sports Betting Lawsuit Against Gov. DeSantis

Posted on: October 19, 2021, 08:42h. 

Last updated on: October 19, 2021, 09:28h.

A federal judge in Florida late Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by two pari-mutuel operators. That lawsuit sought to stop the state from enforcing a revised gaming compact that allows the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer sports betting across the state.

Florida sports betting
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, speaks at an August press conference with state Attorney General Ashley Moody. On Monday, a federal judge in the state ruled that pari-mutuel gaming operators lacked standing to file a suit against the governor and another state official. That’s regarding an amended gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. (Image: GovRonDeSantis/Twitter)

In a 20-page ruling, US District Judge Allen Winsor ruled that the Magic City Casino and the Bonita Springs Poker Room lacked the standing – or did not show how they would be harmed – by either Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or state Secretary of Business and Professional Regulation Julie Imanuel Brown.

The plaintiffs, both owned by the same company, filed the suit in July. They claim the off-reservation provisions of the amended compact the Seminoles reached with DeSantis would hurt their business. Those provisions not only included the approval of mobile sports betting, but the use of a hub-and-spoke retail model statewide as well. That model calls for the Seminoles to partner with pari-mutuel operators across the state.

While Winsor said he would “accept for now” that online sports betting would hurt the plaintiffs’ businesses, the judge added any losses would not happen because of the steps taken by state officials.

It is the compact itself that authorizes the third-party conduct the Pari-mutuels want to prevent… the pari-mutuels do not allege that any of the governor’s post-enactment conduct is contributing—or will contribute—to their losing business,” the judge wrote.

Winsor said that it is the state, which is the true party in the compact, and not the governor that has a “general duty to defend” the compact.

Seminoles: “Important First Legal Victory”

A message to the plaintiffs’ attorneys seeking comment was not immediately returned on Tuesday morning.

The Seminole Tribe, which sought to intervene in the case, was appreciative of the judge’s ruling.

“This is an important first legal victory for the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe and we look forward to future legal decisions in our favor,” the tribe said in a statement Tuesday to Casino.org.

“First” is the keyword in that statement. Because it’s highly likely the plaintiffs will either appeal Winsor’s order, or seek to amend the complaint. The judge gave the pari-mutuel operators seven days to amend it. If that occurs, then state officials would have seven days to respond.

If that does not happen, Winsor said he would rule to dismiss the case without prejudice. That would still allow the plaintiffs to come back to court on the matter.

Federal Officials Also Sued Over Florida Sports Betting

The case against Florida officials isn’t the only case the pari-mutuels filed. In August, they filed suit against the US Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the District of Columbia federal court. That’s after the federal agency announced it took no action on the gaming compact.

As a result of the department’s actions, or lack thereof, the gaming compact is considered approved. But only to the point that the agreement is consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Last week, the defendants in that case filed a motion to dismiss, claiming the plaintiffs also lack the standing to sue them. Both Haaland and the department say they have no role in implementing the compact.