U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has notified a federal court that she and the Department of Interior intend to appeal the November court decision that struck down internet sports betting and Florida’s 2021 Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Haaland filed her notice to appeal the decision Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The actual appeal is set to be filed by Saturday.
The federal government’s argument would have to convince the Appeals Court that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act gives the Interior Department authority to approve Florida’s Gaming Compact even if the Compact allows bets to be placed outside tribal lands.
The notice itself does not reveal what arguments Haaland and the government might be preparing to make.
On Nov. 22, the U.S. District Court issued a summary judgment invalidating her federal approval. Without that approval, the Compact could not be enacted.
That decision shut down the Seminole Tribe’s sports betting app, which had only been activated three weeks earlier. The decision also left in limbo other provisions in the 2021 Gaming Compact, which would have allowed the addition of other casino games and future expansion of gambling by the Seminole Tribe. Sports betting, however, was the first big expansion in line.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida already has filed its own appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit.
The federal appeal, however, may have stronger standing. One of the things the U.S. District Court did in November was rule that the Seminole Tribe’s attempt to intervene in that case was moot.
Until the notice was actually filed Thursday, Haaland and the federal government were quiet about whether they would bother to appeal.
The Compact was challenged and fell because of a federal lawsuit filed by the owners of two South Florida card rooms: West Flagler Associates, which does business as Magic City Casino, and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., which does business as Bonita Springs Poker Room.
They argued the approval was unlawful because it allowed the Tribe to operate gaming outside its own reservation, which they said is not permitted under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The groups raised qualms about Floridians placing sports bets on smartphones or computers through the Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock Sportsbook app.
West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. also argued the approval violates other federal laws by unlawfully permitting internet and bank wire transmission and payments relating to sports betting in Florida, where sports betting is otherwise illegal, and by granting the Seminole Tribe what the organizations asserted was a statewide monopoly over internet sports gambling.