A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the owners of Magic City Casino and the Bonita Springs Poker Room to stop the compact that allows the tribe to operate sports betting.
Last April, an agreement was reached between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and tribal leaders giving the tribe the rights operate sports betting using a “hub – and – spoke” sports betting plan that will allow gamblers throughout the state to place bets online with the bets being run through computer servers on tribal property. Lawmakers ratified it in May in a special legislative session. The exact compact wording says bets made anywhere in the state of Florida using a mobile app or other electronic devices shall be deemed to be exclusively conducted by the tribe.
Magic City had argued that allowing people to place sports bets while off tribal property would violate federal laws and that online sports betting controlled by the tribe will cannibalize their customer bases and cause pari-mutuels to lose money. The State countered that they did not have a legal standing to challenge the compact because they had not shown they would be harmed. U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor agreed in a 20-page ruling Monday. “The parimutuals 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”.
The tribe will be paying billions of dollars to the state because of sports betting and other parts of the compact like offering “real” roulette and craps. They had totally stopped making payments a few years ago because the parimutuals were offering “banked” games of poker and other games to skirt the tribe’s exclusivity of games similar to that.
There are two other federal lawsuits floating out there challenging the compact. The Havenick family, which has owned Magic City (formally Fagler Dog Track) and the Bonita Springs track for over 50 years, also filed lawsuit in Washington DC naming the U.S. Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland as defendants. Without taking any action this summer, the Interior Department, which oversees Indian gambling issues, allowed the compact to go into effect. Lawyers for Haaland and her agency filed a motion last week asking a Federal judge to reject that lawsuit.
The other lawsuit involves two prominent South Florida businessmen and the anti-gambling organization “No Casino’s”, who have filed a sperate lawsuit in Washington, D.C. That hearing will be heard early next month.
Most experts have said Magic City really didn’t have a chance winning the lawsuit, and even if they did, good luck enforcing the tribe to do anything on their property. It seems they have more power than the IRS.
It’s also odd that Magic City went this route by suing the state as the agreement will allow the tribe to work with several parimutual facilities and be able to operate sport betting under this “hub -and – spoke” arrangement and collect a commission of 55% of the profits. One must wonder if the tribe will want anything to do with Magic City. Magic City is clearly the most successful racino in the area with very successful slot machine revenues. There are several competitors just a Giancarlo Staton homerun away. It is not known yet how successful sports betting will be and how many people it will bring into the casinos outside the Hard Rock in Hollywood and Tampa.
The big kahuna is the mobile sports betting. The convenience of opening an account and being able to pull a cellphone out of your pocket and place a bet 24 hours a day on any sporting event in the world is mind boggling. How this will effect slot machine betting is unknown and likely minimal. States that allow mobile sports betting, such as the state that started the whole thing – New Jersey – have enjoyed huge revenues compared to the starts that allow sports betting without the mobile betting feature. A gambler would not have to enter the casino to place a bet on a sporting event.
Another factor that makes one wonder why Magic City tried to stop the compact is the fact they are banking their future of jai-alai on sports betting. They now run a H2H schedule, which are exciting partidos – three days a week at 5pm. You bet on a winning team in a two team partido using odds similar to a football bet. Already two states allow it, with seven more expected this year alone. If the Tribe does hold the rights to pick who they want as partners and Magic City wants Florida to add jai-alai as a sport to bet on, there might be some reluctance. Magic City has been phasing out parimutual wagering performances and only runs 3 of them a week now – on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturday’s at 1:30pm. Only retirees in a rocking chair that don’t care about college football can appreciate those hours. Florida is one of two states that know anything about jai-alai with Connecticut obviously the other one. Not having Florida to offer jai-alai sports betting would be a big blow to their plans. Let’s hope this is not the case and jai-alai sports betting will be allowed in the state eventually.
The Hard Rock has not started the sports betting yet, even though they were allowed to open it October 15th. It is unknown why they have not started – whether it takes more time to get it set up,, or perhaps the pending lawsuits – or a combination of both.