A prominent group opposing the expansion of casinos in Florida has sent a letter to federal regulators asking them to reject the state’s recent deal with the Seminole Tribe.
Lawmakers last month ratified Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Tribe’s Compact, and it now awaits the U.S. Department of the Interior’s approval. If given the green light, the 30-year deal is guaranteed to rake in $500 million per year for Florida over the next five years.
However, No Casinos argues the Compact violates state and federal law and has vowed to take the state to court if the department approves it. Under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the department must sign off on state gaming agreements.
Saying no gives Florida a chance to renegotiate the deal.
“It simply sends the matter back to Tallahassee with the very clear message of ‘get it right’ with an agreement that benefits both the Tribe and State, while honoring the intent of IGRA and will of Florida voters,” wrote No Casinos President John Sowinski.
The letter to Deputy Assistant Secretary Bryan Newland, President Joe Biden’s nominee to oversee Indigenous affairs at the department, is dated June 9. However, it didn’t surface until Monday.
The Department of the Interior has 45 days from the Compact’s delivery, roughly until mid-July, to issue its decision. But some expect the department to hand down the decision before the end of June.
No Casino’s letter also followed one from Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber similarly calling on the department to reject the Compact. DeSantis dismissed Gelber’s call as “idiotic,” partisan politics.
Central to No Casino’s opposition is the deal’s inclusion of fantasy sports competitions. Courts have already ruled that internet gaming takes place where the player is playing, the group notes. In its view, the Compact violates IGRA by expanding gaming outside of tribal lands.
Additionally, No Casinos argues the Compact violates the Florida Constitution by adding craps, roulette and sports betting. Under a constitutional amendment spearheaded by No Casinos in 2018, expanding gambling requires voters’ approval.
“The flaws are many and they are fatal,” Sowinski wrote.
During discussions in last month’s Special Session on gaming, Republican Rep. Randy Fine acknowledged the Compact’s flaws regarding sports betting. Fine is a former casino executive who chaired the House Select Committee on Gaming.
“Me personally, I don’t think it’s going to survive,” Fine said.