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Justice Trump cancels Ron DeSantis’ gambling expansion

Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich canceled Governor Ron DeSantis (R) game expansion contract with the Seminole Tribe earlier this week over concerns about monopolization of games.

Although the judge overturned the pact, the decision is under appeal by the Seminol tribe. The tribe also hasn’t shut down its statewide gaming app, the issue in question.

The expansion of gambling has been found to violate the Federal Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA) as gambling can only take place on tribal lands. The expansion of gambling has allowed individuals to place bets located anywhere in the state on one app.

The state of Florida argued that the expansion was legal because the app’s servers were on tribal land. But the judge dismissed the argument as “fiction”.

“Where a federal law allows activity only in specific places, the parties cannot escape this limitation by ‘considering’ their activity to occur where, in fact, it does not.” , wrote the judge.

“Therefore, because the Compact allows clients to bet anywhere in Florida, including locations that are not Indian lands, the Compact violates the IGRA ‘Indian Lands’ requirement,” Friedrich added. .

The ruling does not prevent the state from making another pact with the tribe.

“The state and the tribe can agree to a new pact, with the approval of the secretary, which allows online gambling only on Indian lands,” Friedrich wrote in his opinion. “Alternatively, the citizens of Florida can authorize such betting in their state through a citizens’ initiative. “

In 2018, Florida residents voted to amend Florida’s constitution, stating that “voters must approve any future expansion of casino games.” The amendment was supported by the Seminole tribe and Disney.

“The GOP-controlled legislature and DeSantis circumvented this amendment by insisting that the new pact was legal because the actual betting processing took place on tribal lands even though someone could use a mobile app. anywhere in the State “, Politics reported.

Supporters of the pact believe the betting app will continue to operate while the appeal is pending.

Nova Southeastern University law professor Bob Jarvis told The Sun the tribe would likely seek a stay of Friedrich’s decision, which would allow the tribe to continue its statewide gaming service. “One of the things they will ask is that Judge Friedrich’s decision be stayed while the appeal continues,” Jarvis said. “I have no doubt that this request will be granted.”

Opponents of the pact, however, suggest that the continued operation of the app is not legally sound.

“Whatever limited potential the Seminole Tribe think they have here in terms of revenue, they are playing with fire by blatantly ignoring a court order and potentially violating a number of federal gambling laws,” said gaming industry analyst lawyer Daniel Wallach. Sun.

The continued functionality of the app before a stay is presumably grated calls into question the tribal payments the state of Florida was to receive from the pact, “a 30-year deal that was supposed to pay Florida.” , $ 5 billion in the first five years and $ 6 billion by 2030 “, Sun Sentinel reported.

In October, the tribe submitted its first payment of $ 37 million.

The case is West Flagler Associates v. Haaland, No. 21-cv-2192 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @ WendellHusebø

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