Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Seminole Tribe of Florida continued to accept wagers on its sports betting app.
Wait, what? We thought that was illegal now. A federal judge ruled Monday that the premise of the gambling agreement with the state was based on a “fiction,” and she tossed out the entire thing.
How can the Seminole Hard Rock Sportsbook app be both illegal and still operating?
The fast-moving legal case is continuing to unfold — and that includes an emergency motion filed by the Tribe on Thanksgiving Day, asking the federal appellate court in the District of Columbia to issue a stay that would prevent the previous decision from being enforced until a full appeal can be heard.
And that has left the whole matter in utter turmoil.
A QUICK DECISION
It needs to be resolved quickly, though, because the longer the Hard Rock Sportsbook is operational, the more confusion will ensue. Floridians should know if they are participating in a legal betting operation or not.
We sure do understand why the Seminoles want to keep taking bets: There’s a ton of money at stake. According to the emergency motion, the Tribe, through Seminole Hard Rock Digital, “has invested over $25 million in its online sports betting efforts and expects to invest $45 million in total by the end of the year.”
The motion says the Sportsbook app already is generating millions of dollars a week, but the motion also noted that the court battle has had a “chilling effect” on operations.
And that’s not the only financial incentive at play. The Tribe also said it has invested “hundreds of thousands of dollars and hired scores of employees in preparing to launch craps and roulette,” as part of the now-invalidated agreement with Florida.
The Seminoles also have made two payments to the state of $37 million each as part of the agreement — monthly payments, they point out, that would dry up if the sports betting deal and its related expansion of gambling at Hard Rock sites are halted for real.
CHASING THE DOLLARS
The blame here lies with Gov. Ron DeSantis and the GOP-led Florida Legislature. With dollar signs dancing before their eyes, they pushed for a concocted legal strategy where they tried to get us all to pretend that this online betting wasn’t actually an illegal expansion of gambling in Florida because the servers were located on tribal land.
Federal Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, in the District of Columbia, rightly called that a “fiction,” and deemed the resulting agreement illegal earlier this week. She followed that by rejecting an appeal by the Tribe on Wednesday, leading to this latest emergency motion in another court. The suit was originally brought by plaintiffs that include the owners of Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County.
Obviously, there are a lot more important things in the world right now — like a new COVID-19 variant — than whether you can bet on Saturday’s college football games on your phone. But this still needs to be settled quickly by the court in Washington, D.C.
Too bad the leaders of our state once again let money blind them to common sense.