Florida Sports Betting Legal Battle Revived, California Vote Closing In


The Biden administration is asking an appeals court to reinstate a deal that briefly allowed the Seminole Tribe to launch a mobile betting app in Florida last year. There is no timeframe for when this legal dispute might be resolved and sports betting can start again in the state. 

That leaves the nation’s three most populated states, California, Texas and Florida in that order, without legal sports betting. Combined, these states account for more than 90 million residents out of a U.S. population of about 330 million.

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Florida Sports Betting Legal Challenge

The U.S. Department of the Interior filed a brief last week seeking to reinstate the gaming compact between the state and Seminole Tribe. The compact, approved last year in a special legislative session, opened the door for the tribe to offer online sports betting.

However, the owners of Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room filed suit, challenging the legality of the tribe’s sports betting efforts and stating their businesses would suffer.

Late last year, the app was discontinued when U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled it violated the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requiring gambling to take place on tribal land.

The judge said it is a “fiction” to claim mobile bets placed anywhere in Florida are in fact taking place on tribal land just because that’s where the computer servers are located to process mobile bets.

In a 75-page brief last week, the Interior Department argued that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland was obligated to allow the compact to take effect.

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California Sports Betting on November Ballot

Sports betting is legal and live in 30 states and Washington, D.C. It is legal but not operational in six more states, including Florida.

California could be next to join this list.

On Election Day this year, Californians will be faced with two competing ballot items that would legalize sports wagering.

One item on the Nov. 8 ballot would allow the use of mobile apps for sports betting. The other would maintain a ban on apps but legalize in-person wagering at tribal casinos and four horse tracks.

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Texas Sports Betting Will Have to Wait

In Texas, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has joined those who think sports betting is inevitable in the Lone Star State.

But this pro-sports betting faction will have to wait.

Sports wagering cannot come up for another legislative vote until lawmakers next meet at the Capitol in Austin in 2023. In the past, sports betting proposals have failed at the Texas Legislature.

The reluctance to approve sports betting in Texas has benefitted Louisiana, where mobile and in-person betting are legal.

At the Louisiana Gaming Control Board on Monday, Chairman Ronnie Johns highlighted the success of the Lake Charles gaming market. That city in Southwestern Louisiana is only about 35 miles from the Texas border.

Among the many Texans who travel to Louisiana to bet is Houston furniture salesman Jim McIngvale, known as Mattress Mack. He drives to Louisiana on occasion to place multimillion-dollar sports bets.

The effort to appeal to potential Louisiana sports betting customers in Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, has extended to BetMGM Sportsbook signage at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.

A pair of signs behind home plate during Tuesday’s game between the Astros and Minnesota Twins stated that BetMGM is “Live in Louisiana.”

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