DC Court Of Appeals Dismisses A Florida Gaming Compact Lawsuit

Written By Steve Schult on June 6, 2022 - Last Updated on June 7, 2022
Florida gaming compact court case

One of the lawsuits surrounding the Florida gaming compact was dismissed last week. However, the decision doesn’t change much regarding when or if Florida sports betting launches.

A trio of judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed the lawsuit filed by Monterra AF, LLC.

In a filing last Thursday, Judges Gregory Katsas, Neomi Rao and Justin Walker ruled the suit is discharged and granted the motion for voluntary dismissal. In their decision, they stated that the motion to consolidate the two lawsuits over Florida gaming be dismissed as moot.

Differences between the two lawsuits

Last year, after Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe agreed to a new 30-year Florida gaming compact, two groups filed lawsuits over the agreement.

The ownership group of two South Florida pari-mutuel facilities filed one. The other was filed by a group of businessmen backed by an anti-gambling advocacy group called No Casinos.

The compact was set to expand gaming options at both pari-mutuels and Seminole-owned casinos. Additionally, it would legalize both retail and online sports betting.

West Flagler Associates filed suit over the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model used to legalize sports betting. They claimed it gave the Seminole Tribe an unfair advantage in the market and also violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Monterra cared about casino gaming, not sports betting

On the other hand, Monterra AF, LLC sought to invalidate the compact for other reasons. They wanted to keep the Seminoles from offering craps and roulette at their six casinos.

Last November, District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich agreed with West Flagler.

According to the IGRA, bettors must be physically located on tribal land when placing a wager. But the compact gave the tribe a monopoly on the online betting market. Since Florida sports bettors could wager online with the tribe’s Hard Rock Sportsbook from anywhere in the state, Friedrich ruled that the compact was in violation of federal standards.

What happened to Monterra’s case?

When Friedrich ruled that the compact violated the IGRA, it vacated the compact. Essentially, since she already ruled that the agreement was illegal, there was no reason to rule on any further suits.

In her decision, Friedrich deemed Monterra’s request for a summary judgment irrelevant. As a result, the federal government filed a motion to consolidate the two cases in February.

The feds argued that there was significant overlap in the legal precedents between the two cases. Thus, the court should treat the two cases as one.

Initially, Monterra didn’t have any serious objections to the move. But the Court of Appeals decided to suspend the proposed briefing and gave both parties 30 days to show that the court has jurisdiction over its claims.

The IGRA vs. Amendment 3

It was during that time that lawyers for Monterra walked back their initial agreeableness. They argued that the two lawsuits had “diametrically opposed” reasons for wanting the gaming compact vacated.

West Flagler’s suit hinged on the IGRA, while Monterra’s argument centered around Amendment 3, a ballot initiative passed in 2018. It stated that voters must approve any gambling expansion. Ironically, the Seminole Tribe backed the initiative.

Monterra claims that adding certain casino games to the market without the consent of the voters violated the amendment.

The Monterra dismissal doesn’t alter the projected timeline

On the surface, it looks like this would be a big win for the Seminole Tribe and other supporters of the compact. But ultimately, it doesn’t change the legal landscape in any meaningful way.

The West Flagler lawsuit is still the main event when it comes to Florida sports betting and gambling expansion.

The suit lists the Department of the Interior as the defendant in the case since it was the federal agency that passed the compact. And it already filed an appeal. It’s currently awaiting a decision, which should come in late 2022 or early 2023.

Daniel Wallach, a Florida-based gaming attorney tweeted last Thursday that it looks like Florida bettors will be waiting a while for a decision.

“The DC Circuit has dismissed one of the appeals in the Florida sports betting compact case,” tweeted Wallach. “Not a big deal since it was on a motion for voluntary dismissal. The main appeal remains pending, but still not briefing schedule after 7 months. This appeal won’t be decided until 2023.”

Photo by Shutterstock / Sebastian Duda
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Steve Schult

As Managing Editor of PlayFL, Steve will stay on top of all things related to the Florida gaming industry. He is also a veteran of the gambling world. The native New Yorker started covering high-stakes tournaments in 2009 for some of poker's most prominent media outlets before adding the broader U.S. gaming market to his beat in 2018.

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