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Florida now waits for federal regulator approval of new gaming compact

'If they reject it, it's rejected,' Rep. Randy Fine says
Posted at 6:18 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 21:14:44-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Place your bets. Federal regulators will now decide whether to give final approval to Florida's new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.

DeSantis signed off on the 30-year deal Tuesday evening, sending it to the U.S. Department of the Interior for the last review. Mobile sports betting and an estimated $20 billion in new state revenue are at stake.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will get to make the call. According to federal rules, she'll have 45 days to decide. Her options are to accept, reject or do nothing -- giving the compact automatic approval.

State Rep. Randy Fine
State Rep. Randy Fine helped oversee the gaming compact in the Florida House of Representatives.

"If they reject it, it's rejected," said Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay. "The governor and the Tribe negotiate a new one, then bring it back to the Legislature for approval. We'd have to go through the process all over again."

Fine helped oversee the compact in the Florida House. He didn't think rejection was likely, expecting Haaland would approve without issue. The challenge, he believed, would come in the form of litigation.

"The courts could take out the sports betting part -- but the compact is severable," said Fine. "We will continue to get the million and a half dollars a day whether or not they allow sports betting. It's why I said this was a 'very low risk' for the state of Florida."

Groups like No Casinos have already hinted a lawsuit will follow regulator review. The group has said the deal is too broad and needs voter approval under Amendment 3.

John Sowinski, No Casinos
John Sowinski of No Casinos believes the gaming compact needs voter approval under Amendment 3.

"If a file server is on tribal lands and ... magically, if you're betting on your phone in your home, you're gambling on tribal lands -- that doesn't pass the sniff test," said No Casinos President John Sowinski. "It doesn't pass the sniff test legally, it doesn't pass the sniff test politically and so, yes Amendment 3 applies."

If the compact avoids getting hung up in court, the deal stipulates the Seminole Tribe can start mobile sports betting as soon as Oct. 15.

They would also be allowed to offer craps and roulette at current operations and build up to three more facilities on the Hollywood reservation.