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Court denies stay; Seminole Tribe suspends sports betting in FL

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The Seminole Tribe of Florida suspended its new sports-betting operation Saturday following a federal appellate court decision late Friday that did not go the tribe’s way.

The tribe had asked for a stay of a federal circuit court ruling that struck down the tribe’s gambling compact with the state of Florida as a violation of federal Indian gaming laws. The appellate court said no.

Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner said in a press statement Saturday that the tribe will “aggressively” continue to defend the compact in court but will halt the sports-betting operations it launched on Nov. 1.

“Despite the decision, the Seminole Tribe looks forward to working with the State of Florida and the U.S. Department of Justice to aggressively defend the validity of the 2021 Compact before the Appeals Court, which has yet to rule on the merits of the 2021 Compact.  The Seminole Tribe of Florida, the State of Florida and the United States have all taken the position that the 2021 Compact is legal,” the press statement says.

In saying the United States considers the compact to be legal, the statement refers to the U.S. Department of Interior, whose Bureau of Indian Affairs allowed the compact to take effect by default, issuing neither an approval nor a rejection during its 45-day review period.

Bitner’s statement said accounts of sports-betting clients on the tribe’s Hard Rock Sportsbook would be refunded “as requested.”

District of Columbia Circuit Judge Dabney Friedrich struck down the compact between the Seminole Tribe and the State of Florida on Nov. 23. The tribe appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals and requested a stay of Friedrich’s order to allow it to maintain sports betting during the course of the appeal.

The three-judge appellate court denied the stay, rendering sports betting in Florida illegal pending further court actions.

On the Hard Rock Sportsbook Twitter feed on Saturday, players were told that “Due to yesterday’s appellate court decision, the Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile app will temporarily suspend accepting new bets and deposits. Player information and account funds are safe and secure, and the app will remain online for easy withdrawals via all payment methods.”

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