Federal judge puts stop to sports betting in Florida by nullifying Seminole Compact

Sports gambling is back to square one in Florida. 

A federal judge nullified the Seminole Compact that allowed for sports gambling in the Sunshine State and gave the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to it. The judge said the compact breaks federal and state law. 

"This is a great day for the people of Florida," said John Sowinski. 

Sowinski’s group No Casinos has opposed the Seminole Compact since the beginning. They also have filed federal lawsuits.  

"We think it ought to send a message to politicians in Tallahassee and in Washington that the people in Florida, not politicians, have the authority to expand gambling in our state," said Sowinski. 

The judge agreed, saying the compact violated the Florida Constitution which states sports gambling can only be expanded through a vote by the people. The judge also ruled it broke the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act by allowing betting off of tribal lands. 

"This fiction that a bet placed on a mobile phone is actually a bet placed on tribal lands is something that I don’t think any independent observer bought from the get-go," said Sowinski. 

The Seminole Tribe has already filed an appeal and is "carefully considering its next steps."

While the Tribe evaluates, the Florida Education Champions organization is continuing its push to open up sports betting to any legal wagering platform anywhere in the state. The group which is backed by DraftKings and FanDuel needs about 400,000 more signatures by February 1 to be on the ballot in November. 

"We feel that we should bring this up to the voters as they wanted back in 2018 through Amendment 3," said Christina Johnson. "We believe that this needs to be open. It’s a free market. It should not be a monopoly."

The Hard Rock Sportsbook still works and is accepting bets in Florida. The Seminole Tribe confirmed the app is fully operational for now. 

If the appeals process fails, there are still other ways to bring back sports betting. One would be a new compact that would allow the betting on tribal grounds only or the second would be a ballot vote approving betting statewide. 

Watch FOX 35 News for the latest Central Florida stories.