Florida’s two pari-mutuel operators, Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room, suffered a big legal blow earlier this week when a federal judge dismissed their lawsuit against Governor Ron DeSantis. The Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room, both owned by the same company, had filed the lawsuit against the governor in July this year.
In the lawsuit, the two pari-mutuel operators argued that the governor’s off-reservation provisions of the state’s amended gaming compact with the Seminoles would hurt their businesses. The list of controversial provisions includes approval of mobile sports betting and the statewide use of a hub-&-spoke retail model. The new provisions allow the Seminole Tribe to partner with pari-mutuel operators across the Sunshine State.
In his 20-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor dismissed the lawsuit, and proclaimed that the two pari-mutuel operators lacked the standing. Explaining his decision, the federal judge ruled that the plaintiffs failed to show how the new provision of the gaming compact that Gov. DeSantis signed with the Seminoles would hurt their businesses. Apart from the governor, the lawsuit targeted Julie Imanuel Brown, Florida State Secretary of Business & Professional Regulations.
The federal judge accepted that further expansion of gaming would hurt the Magic City Casino and the Bonita Springs Poker Room’s revenues, but he added that the state could not be held responsible for any such losses.
A message to the two-pari-mutuel operators seeking a comment on the ruling wasn’t immediately returned; while the Seminole Tribe appreciated the federal judge’s ruling.
Commenting on the ruling, the federally-recognized tribe said, “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.”
The use of word “first” is quite interesting as the tribe may be expecting the two plaintiffs to either appeal the federal judge’s ruling or seek to amend their complaint. The pari-mutuel operators have been given seven days to file an amended complaint. If that case, the state would have seven days to act in response.
The dismissed lawsuit wasn’t the only legal action filed by the Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room. In August this year, the two pari-mutuel operators filed a similar suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DoI) and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland after the federal agency decided not to take any action on the controversial gaming compact.