Florida companies with gambling interests are calling on the Florida Supreme Court to issue a “writ of quo warranto,” saying Gov. Ron DeSantis and top legislative leaders exceeded their powers in granting the Seminole Tribe of Florida the exclusive rights to offer off-reservation online and-in person sports betting in Florida in 2021.
Now, those gaming companies want to suspend the sports betting pact, claiming only that voters must approve a constitutional amendment to do such a thing.
“Since the current status of the case is that the 2021 Compact is valid under federal law, review of the legality of off-reservation sports betting under state law is urgent,” they write. In fact, the legal sports betting industry could relaunch any time now.
The legal brief filed with the Florida Supreme Court late Monday night, shows the players in the lawsuit. They are gaming companies: West Flagler Associates and the Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation, a corporation doing business as Bonita Springs Poker Room, as well as Isadore Havenick, the vice president of both companies.
They claim that the 2021 Compact and Implementing Law violated the state constitution by expanding casino gambling in Florida without going through a voter-approved constitutional amendment.
In 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 3, which said that the amendment “ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to approve casino gambling in the State of Florida.”
The lawsuit claims that: “The 2021 Compact and Implementing Law are a clear expansion of casino gambling in Florida without a voter-approved constitutional amendment by citizens’ initiative, as required by Article X, Section 30. In so doing, the Respondents have exceeded their authority in direct violation of the Florida Constitution.”
Months after the Legislature approved the compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state in 2021, a federal judge ruled that the compact violated federal gambling laws by allowing sports betting to take place throughout the state as the bets were processed by computer servers on tribal lands.
But on June 30 of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit approved Florida’s gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, including language that allows statewide sports betting via cellphones and other electronic devices as long as the bets are channeled through servers on tribal land, an arrangement described as “hub and spoke.” At the time, the deal promised to return $2.5 billion to the state during the first five years.
The News Service of Florida reported last week that a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a request from the pari-mutuel owners for a rehearing of that federal case earlier this month “without a detailed explanation.”
The gaming companies wrote in their legal brief Monday that because their case has been denied in the federal courts, the Florida Supreme Court is the “correct forum and quo warranto is the correct proceeding to make that determination.
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This article originally appeared here and was republished with permission.