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Feds approve sports betting compact between Seminole Tribe, state

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood and the Guitar Hotel.

When the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida signed a historic gaming compact in April that would allow sports betting in the state, the Department of Interior had 45 days to approve, disapprove or take no action on the deal. The 45-day mark arrived Aug. 5 and the DOI took no action, which meant approval.

The tribe can now facilitate sports betting in Florida as early as Oct. 15. The compact also allows the tribe to add craps and roulette to its Florida casinos.

“Today is a great day for the people of Florida, who will benefit not only from a $2.5 billion revenue sharing guarantee over five years, but also from statewide sports betting and new casino games that will roll out this fall and mean more jobs for Floridians and more money invested in this state,” Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. said in a statement Aug. 5.

The 30-year compact was signed April 23 by Chairman Osceola and Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Florida Legislature ratified it May 19 during a special session and Tribal Council approved it June 17. The compact guarantees the tribe will send an estimated $6 billion to the state overall by 2030.

The DOI has jurisdiction over Indian gaming through the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and reviews all compacts between states and tribes. In 12-page letters to the tribe and the governor, Bryan Newland, assistant secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, confirmed the compact would become effective upon its publication in the Federal Register.

“The Tribe’s gaming operations have resulted in an incredible success story,” Newland wrote. “Through a mix of business savvy and shrewdness, the Tribe has grown its gaming operations from limited class II facilities to globally-recognized class III gaming operations – and has been able to successfully negotiate class III gaming compacts with the State to facilitate that expansion. We considered these circumstances when conducting our review, and it informed our assessment of whether certain Compact provisions were the outcome of bilateral good-faith negotiations.”

Class II gaming operations by tribes typically consist of bingo. Class III involves most casino-style gaming.

DeSantis said the compact would modernize the state’s gaming industry through the authorization of sports betting through the tribe.

“The final approval of this historic gaming compact is a big deal for the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in a statement. “This mutually-beneficial agreement will grow our economy, expand tourism and recreation, and provide billions in new revenue to benefit Floridians.”

The tribe’s Hard Rock International has a new sports betting entity in place. In December 2020, HRI launched Hard Rock Digital, a joint venture with a group of gaming industry veterans. With headquarters in Hollywood and offices in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Austin, Texas, Hard Rock Digital was created to serve as the online sportsbook, retail sportsbook and internet gaming platform for Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming.  

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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