Anti-Casino Group Pushing Back Against Florida Gaming Compact

Posted By JR Duren on June 24, 2021

No Casinos, the vocal anti-casino group that championed a Florida amendment requiring gambling expansion to be approved by voters, is back at it.

Earlier this month, No Casinos President John G. Sowinski sent a letter to the Department of Interior (DOI) detailing why the DOI should reject the Florida gaming compact.

The letter, sent to DOI Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, pleads with the DOI to reject the compact.

“On behalf of No Casinos…I write to express our concerns about the proposed tribal-state compact between the Seminole Tribe of the State of Florida, and to urge you to reject it so that a compact that honors federal law, Florida’s Constitution, and the express will of Florida voters can be negotiated,” Sowinski wrote.

Several flaws in the compact render it in violation of federal and state law, Sowinski claimed.

Issue #1: Where the bets happen

The updated compact would allow anyone within state lines to place mobile sports bets and play mobile slots. All bets would be routed through servers on tribal land. The Seminole tribe argues that because the servers are on their land, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) protects the bets.

However, Sowinski argued in his letter that a 2018 circuit court decision rendered that argument invalid. The legal precedent, he said, states that bets that take place off tribal land aren’t protected by IGRA.

Issue #2: Compact allows expanded Class III gaming

The Seminole compact will expand gaming on tribal lands. The expansion will allow craps, roulette and sports betting at Seminole casinos (“Class III” gaming). While that portion of the compact may not be an issue in some states, Sowinski said it’s a big issue in Florida because the Florida Constitution “prohibits casino gambling games not already permitted through a vote of the people.”

And that raises the third big issue: Amendment 3.

Issue #3: Amendment 3

In 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 3, which required all gambling expansion (Class III games typically found in casinos) to be approved by voters. No Casinos was a critical player in the push to approve the amendment.

Sowinski argued that the legal precedent allows tribes to negotiate for expanded gambling that’s permitted by state law.

But, because Florida doesn’t allow Class III gambling and craps, roulette, and sports betting weren’t present in Seminole casinos when Amendment 3 passed, the tribe is bound by law to let voters decide if it can add Class III games.

Sowinski to Seminoles: It’s not you, it’s the compact

The No Casinos president ended his letter by saying the group’s rejection of the compact is not a rejection of the tribe.

Rather, he said, the rejection is meant to convey a specific message. An agreement must be reached that benefits the tribe and state, Sowinski concluded.

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JR Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey gambling beats for Catena Media. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun. Duren is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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