Federal judge tosses one of the challenges to Seminole Gaming Compact
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There are other federal lawsuits still pending.

A federal judge is dismissing one of the lawsuits challenging Florida’s new Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, saying the pari-mutuel operations trying to thwart the Compact don’t have standing.

On Monday, Judge Allen Winsor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida dismissed the case of West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation against Gov. Ron DeSantis and Business and Professional Regulations Secretary Julie Brown.

The two pari-mutuels claimed they were aggrieved, notably that the Gaming Compact granted exclusive rights to sports betting to the Tribe and made it statewide by allowing internet sports betting, run from the Tribe’s computer servers on tribal land.

West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation charged that the Compact would harm their businesses, Miami’s Magic City Casino and the Bonita Springs Poker Room, and that DeSantis’ and Brown’s actions will help cause the harm when they could help prevent it.

Nope, Winsor concluded. The Magic City and Bonita Springs interests did not sufficiently connect the dots showing that whatever DeSantis or Brown did or might do would be the reason for business harm to the two pari-mutuels, he concluded.

“The Pari-mutuels lack standing to sue the Governor or the Secretary because their actions are not fairly traceable to any alleged harm. In addition, the requested declaratory and injunctive relief would provide no legal or practical redress to the Pari-mutuels’ injuries,” Winsor wrote.

West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation had some other charges in their July 2 lawsuit complaint. Windsor found them all to be moot. Without arguments showing that DeSantis and Brown were causing any harm, the judge concluded that the other issues didn’t matter.

“This is an important first legal victory for the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe, and we look forward to future legal decisions in our favor,” said Gary Bitner, spokesman for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The suit Winsor ruled in is only one of two suits West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation filed to get Florida’s Gaming Compact thrown out. There also are other lawsuits from other plaintiffs.

In August, West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation sued U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the Department of Interior after she gave the Florida Compact federal approval. That case is pending in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

In September, No Casinos also sued Haaland and the Department of Interior, also in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia, but on different legal grounds. No Casinos charged that the Florida Compact violates Florida’s constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters in 2018 that required all gambling expansions in Florida to be approved by statewide popular vote.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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