- Florida’s sports betting legalization is expected to pass.
- Potential legal challenges are on the horizon, citing a constitutional amendment from 2018.
- The biggest contributor to getting that amendment passed was the Seminole Tribe.
LAS VEGAS - Florida’s online sports betting legalization plans are proceeding apace, with a special session convened to pass them after Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe negotiated a deal to allow sports betting through the tribal compact.
However, interest groups are preparing a legal challenge to the proceedings, on the grounds that they violate Florida’s constitution.
In 2018 a constitutional amendment was proposed that changed the law such that only voters could approve the expansion of gambling in the state.
The ballot summary of the amendment was as follows:
“This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.”
The legal challenges to DeSantis’ deal, reported on by the Florida Phoenix, are expected to challenge the expansion of gambling via the tribe as though it were a violation of this constitutional amendment.
However, the Seminole tribe is a sovereign nation - and tribal compacts are not subject to that amendment.
One intriguing wrinkle - per Ballotpedia, the Seminole Tribe was the largest contributor to the ballot measure committee in favor of the amendment that their new deal is likely to be sued under.
The Seminole Tribe contributed $24.35 million to Voters In Charge, which was a ballot measure committee registered with the explicit purpose of supporting this measure.
This looks quite canny in retrospect - and could have been a factor in forcing DeSantis to the negotiating table.
After all, if the voters have to approve of sports betting in the state, that adds another hurdle to getting it passed - unless the sports betting is done via the Seminole Tribe.
To put it another way, if the tribal compact ends up getting legally overturned, the Seminole Tribe will have spent $24 million lobbying for the constitutional amendment that would be used to challenge their deal with DeSantis.
Does anyone seriously think that the Seminole Tribe will have spent $24 million dollars getting an amendment passed that actually inhibits their ability to offer gambling?
Don't bet on it.