A compact between the state and Seminole Tribe of Florida, if approved by lawmakers at a May special session, could open the window to sports betting at pari-mutuels across the state, including Daytona Beach Racing & Card Club.
Or it could slam it shut.
While state lawmakers and pari-mutuel operators were praising Gov. Ron DeSantis’ announcement late last week, lawsuits challenging it appear inevitable and an attorney who specializes in the industry said federal law is clear: Sports betting is not legal under the structure of the deal.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland must first sign off on the agreement. If she does so, the deal will likely face a court challenge.
One court challenge may come from NoCasinos.org, the not-for-profit organization behind passage of Amendment 3 in 2018 requiring referendums on any future expansion of gambling.
John Sowinski, president of No Casinos, said he agrees the DeSantis-Seminole compact doesn’t “pass the sniff test,” and, further, it violates the letter and spirit of Amendment 3, which was approved by 71% of Florida voters in 2018.
That law gives voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in Florida.
“Sports betting might be the smallest part of what this compact does,” Sowinski said, pointing to a line in the compact in which the state and tribe agree to, within 36 months of the effective date, go back to the table to discuss authorization of the tribe to offer all “covered games” online or via mobile devices.
“You’re talking about full-blown e-gaming … online betting of all forms — slots, roulette, blackjack, sports book. Any person anywhere in the state could gamble through a server that would be declared on tribal lands,” Sowinski said. “That is the most enormous expansion of gaming ever contemplated in Florida.”