Florida Anti-Casino Group Asks Interior Department to Dismiss Seminole Compact

Posted on: June 22, 2021, 09:11h. 

Last updated on: June 22, 2021, 11:14h.

No Casinos, a group opposing gaming expansion in Florida, is requesting that federal officials at the US Interior Department dismiss the state’s new Class III gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.

Florida Seminole compact casino gambling
No Casino President John Sowkinski in 2019. The anti-gaming expansion group is urging the US Interior Department to void the state’s new Seminole Tribe compact that authorizes new forms of gambling. (Image: Florida Politics)

In May, the Florida Legislature gave its blessing to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the tribe’s reworked gaming compact. The updated arrangement is to run for 30 years and provides the tribe privileges to operate sports betting, as well as exclusive rights to craps and roulette. 

The US Department of the Interior (DOI) and its Bureau of Indian Affairs must ratify all Class III gaming compacts reached between federally recognized sovereign nations and state governments. The Interior Department has 45 days to decide on Florida’s new casino terms. But a ruling could be handed down before the end of the month.

The Interior Department is headed by Secretary Deb Haaland. The former US representative for New Mexico’s first congressional district, the Democratic politician is the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary. Haaland is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. 

Legal Challenges

In a letter to the DOI, No Casinos President John Sowinski argues that the latest compact goes against the will of the people. He points to a 2018 ballot referendum question that asked Floridians if they wish to strip state lawmakers of the power to permit new forms of casino gambling. The question passed with 71 percent support. 

The voices of the Seminole Tribe and the people of Florida were in complete harmony with the passage of Amendment 3, which ‘ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida,'” Sowinski declared. 

“Importantly, rejecting this compact is not a rejection of the Seminole Tribe. It simply sends the matter back to Tallahassee with the very clear message of ‘get it right’ with an agreement that benefits both the Tribe and State, while honoring the intent of IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) and will of Florida voters,” Sowinski petitioned.

Sowinski concluded that the compact sent to DC has many flaws and “they are fatal.”

Trump Factor

Another point of contention Sowinski brought up is the compact’s stipulation that the tribe will no longer argue against a slot license in Miami-Dade or Broward counties. That’s so long as the facility is not within 15 miles “in a straight line” from a Seminole casino.

Critics of the compact say that if lawmakers decouple slot privileges in the future Trump Doral could one day house a casino. DeSantis vigorously rejected such allegations. Decouple splot privileges would allow slot machines at non-pari-mutuel facilities.

“That is just pure, idiotic politics,” DeSantis declared. “I think it’s just an example of some of these partisan politicians always trying to elevate themselves with any type of cheap headline they can get trying to inject [former President Donald] Trump into this.”