Seminoles Can Keep Gambling Specifics Secret Under Florida Compact

Written By Adam Hensley on April 29, 2024

How much money has been wagered on sports in Florida after the Seminole Tribe relaunched its sports betting app, Hard Rock Bet, last November?

Your guess is as good as ours.

The Seminoles do not have to publicize specific gambling numbers under the gaming compact between the state of Florida and the tribe. The tribe pays the state monthly a percentage of the total revenue it collects from its casinos and retail and online sports betting.

Nova Southeastern law professor Bob Jarvis said the courts would have to settle any challenge to the tribe’s secrecy.

State allows tribe to keep specific gambling numbers private

The Seminole Tribe of Florida operates six casinos in the state and enjoys exclusivity over Florida sports betting. A case before the US Supreme Court challenges that monopoly. It remains to be seen if the Court will ultimately hear the case.

The state did not seek specifics on gambling revenue when it signed the gaming compact with the tribe a few years ago, Jarvis told PlayFL.

“The Seminoles, like other tribes, consider such information to be confidential and proprietary, and the state of Florida acquiesced to their view during negotiations over the Seminoles-Florida gaming compact.”

Jarvis said the compact references Chapter 119 of the Florida statutes, otherwise known as Florida’s “open government records provision.”

“It states that if the state of Florida receives a request from a third party for the tribe’s revenue information, the state has to notify the tribe so that the tribe can go to court and try to block the information from being released.”

Do other states have similar agreements?

It truly is a state-by-state approach.

For example, Jarvis said Minnesota requires tribes to disclose a breakdown of its revenue from casino gambling. The state has not legalized sports betting.

The law professor pointed to two court cases, one in 2002 and the other in 2003, that led to the tribe having to publicize specific numbers.

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux v. Hatch was the first. The state of Minnesota argued the tribes’ revenue numbers should be open public records. The tribe claimed release of the figures would break their compact with the state. It also said it was a violation of its due process rights.

The court ruled tribes must disclose the information.

The 2003 case of Prairie Island Indian Community v. Minnesota Department of Public Safety affirmed that decision. The court ruled there was “no showing of affirmative misconduct by the government” and the state is “not estopped from arguing that the data are public data.”

PlayFl estimates tribe paid $32 million from sports betting in 2 months

So, any challenge to the Seminole Tribe’s secrecy would have to be settled in court.

Under the compact, the tribe pays the state a percentage of the revenue it realizes from gambling. The tribe just doesn’t have to specify how much of it came from sports betting.

PlayFL estimated the tribe paid around $13.8 million to the state in December and $18.2 million in January from sports betting alone.

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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, with experience covering online sports betting and gambling across Catena Media. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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