New Filings In Florida Gaming Compact Lawsuit Point Towards Long Wait On A Decision

Written By Steve Schult on April 12, 2022
Florida gaming compact

The plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits surrounding the Florida gaming compact filed paperwork Sunday that its case should be heard in an appellate court.

Unfortunately for Floridians craving gambling expansion in the Sunshine State, the filing just indicates a long wait time.

In the filing, Monterra AF LLC cited the legal differences in the two lawsuits to push for its case to be heard separately.

Monterra is made up of South Florida businessmen and an anti-gambling group called No Casinos. Their gripe against the gaming compact is the permission for Seminole-owned casinos to spread Class III gaming. The current compact prohibits the tribe from offering that class of gambling, which includes games like craps and roulette.

Their lawsuit hinges on Amendment 3, which was passed by voters in 2018. It was a Seminole-backed amendment that would only allow for gambling expansion in the state if it was approved by voters.

Monterra argues that expanding gambling options through the passage of the gaming compact violates the amendment.

On the other hand, West Flagler Associates only took aim at the sports betting model in the compact. West Flagler owns Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room. They argued that the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model of sports betting violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The model allowed for the Seminole Tribe to accept online sports bets from anywhere in the state. However, the IGRA only allows gamblers to place bets with tribal nations on tribal land.

The Seminoles argued that since the servers were located on tribal property, they adhered to federal standards. But last November, District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich disagreed and deemed it illegal.

Hard Rock launched its online sportsbook a couple of weeks before Friedrich’s ruling. But as a result of it, the Seminoles shuttered the operation.

Friedrich believed her ruling ended Monterra’s suit against the Florida gaming compact

In her ruling against the sports betting model, Friedrich deemed Monterra’s request for summary judgment irrelevant. Since she had already vacated the gaming compact, there was no case for her to rule on.

And once her ruling came down, the appeals process immediately started.

In both lawsuits, the federal government is the defendant in the case but has the same interests in play as the tribe. Both the tribe and the government are fighting to keep the gaming compact intact.

The Department of the Interior passed the gaming compact, which is why West Flagler and Monterra listed Secretary Deb Haaland as the defendant.

A push for consolidation from the federal government

Last month, the federal government filed a motion to consolidate the two cases. The government argued there was a significant overlap. Thus, the court should treat the two cases as one.

Initially, Monterra didn’t have any serious objections to the move. In fact, they stated that the two suits were “based on the same legal opinion” in a filing.

The D.C. Court of Appeals decided to suspend the proposed briefing schedules and give both parties 30 days to show that the court has jurisdiction over its claims.

In that 30-day timeframe, Monterra seemingly walked back that sentiment. There is also a question over whether Monterra’s case can be appealed if there was no initial ruling.

Furthermore, by keeping the lawsuits separate, the parties against the passage of the compact have multiple shots at favorable rulings.

Inversely, if the federal government can combine them, it only requires one ruling to legalize the compact again.

Monterra believes its Florida gaming compact lawsuit is still viable

In the most recent filing, Monterra argued against consolidation for reasons already outlined. The lawyers for Monterra said the two lawsuits had “diametrically opposed” reasons for wanting the gaming compact vacated.

They went on to argue for the appellate court to hear the case because Friedrich “thoroughly disengaged” the district court from hearing the case. Therefore, the district court already made its ruling and it can move to the Court of Appeals.

Legal experts say that these types of appellate cases typically take anywhere from six to 12 months to resolve.

It points to the end of 2022 as the best-case scenario for a decision on the issue. The more likely timeframe for a ruling would be early-2023.

Photo by Shutterstock / 3drenderings
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Steve Schult

Steve Schult is a veteran of the gambling industry with more than a decade of experience covering the space. After earning his journalism degree from Marist College, the New York native began covering high-stakes poker tournaments and the U.S. gambling industry for various outlets. Following stints as a writer for Card Player Media, Bluff Magazine and the World Series of Poker, Schult will serve as the Managing Editor for PlayFL.

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