The Mayor of Miami Beach, who wants to avoid a casino in his city, is asking the federal government for help. He formally asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to nix a recent Florida gambling compact because it “was negotiated with corrupt intent.” While his request is a Hail Mary, it raises questions about who will really benefit from the new casino and sportsbook compact.

New Florida Gambling Compact Requires Federal Approval

Under the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the Department of the Interior must approve all gambling compacts. After Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the deal on May 25, the Department has 45 days to review the agreement.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. DeSantis considers the Florida gambling compact a big win.

The Seminole Tribe received exclusive control of Florida sportsbooks in the new compact. The Tribe can run and license statewide mobile and online betting operations. However, the IGRA limits gaming outside of tribal lands.

The new Seminole-Florida deal attempts to circumvent this restriction by requiring all online bets be hosted by servers located at their casinos. These servers would be the ‘hub’ of all sports betting in the state. Still, it is unclear if that is allowed under the IGRA, as the bettor themselves could be located anywhere in Florida.

Mayor’s Concerns Regard Future Casino Developments

Despite the questions about whether all betting occurs on Tribal land, the Miami Beach Mayor has different qualms with the new gambling compact. Mayor Dan Gelber believes the entire deal was a backdoor attempt to get Gov. DeSantis’ political backers casino licenses.

In fact, Mayor Gelber’s letter to the Department of the Interior states DeSantis “was most interested in advancing the interests of non-tribal political donors and his most important political patron.” The political patron he refers to is former President Trump, who not-so-secretly wants to turn his Doral resort into a casino. Additionally, billionaire Jeffrey Soffer – a major DeSantis donor – hopes to add a casino to his Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel.

Doral Clubhouse
Will Trump Doral become a casino resort?

The new Seminole-Florida compact includes a provision regarding possible casino developments. The Tribe agreed to not object to any new casinos outside a 15-mile radius from its Hollywood resort complex. Located just outside the 15-mile restricted zone? Both the Trump Doral and the Fontainebleau.

While commercial casinos are not currently legal in Florida, the Seminole’s essentially ceded their ability to enforce their gaming exclusivity in the new compact.

Florida Gambling Compact Raises Additional Questions

The Seminole Tribe still vigorously supports the new Florida gambling compact. But Mayor Gelber’s objections and the issue of whether all betting occurs on Tribal land are not the deal’s only legal problems.

In 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment granting citizens the right to approve any gambling expansion. The new Florida gambling compact bypasses citizens through legal maneuvering. State lawyers argue that sportsbooks and mobile sports betting are not “an expansion of gambling.” However, lawmakers who opposed the new agreement pointed out that this argument may be illogical.

State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat, believes residents have the legal right to voice their opinion: “We are told that this compact doesn’t violate Amendment 3. Why? We’re told it doesn’t violate Amendment 3 because it’s not an expansion of gambling because of course sports betting on our phone app is happening through servers on tribal land. LOL.”

The questions arising in the aftermath of this year’s gambling compact show just how complicated any Florida gaming reform is. Politicians have tried for years to reconcile all the competing interests and positions. Now that a deal awaits approval, opponents are not backing down.

Even if the Department of the Interior grants the new Florida gambling compact approval, lawsuits over the Amendment 3 issue may delay its implementation. As of now, the Seminole Tribe anticipates taking bets beginning on October 15.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller is a veteran casino writer with decades of experience under his belt. He's played at –and reviewed– countless of online casinos, and has written dozens of casino game guides. His strategy articles, and gambling news updates have been a fixture in the industry since 2004. A native of North Texas, Cliff is a long-suffering Dallas Cowboys fan. He enjoys sports and games of all sorts, including sports betting.

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