Appeals Court Denies Rehearing, A Win For Florida Sports Betting Efforts

Written By Dan Holmes on September 12, 2023 - Last Updated on September 13, 2023
Court of Appeals denies rehearing in sports betting case.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida could relaunch its Hard Rock Bet sports betting mobile app soon following a court decision this week.

The US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia said it will not rehear the case after an earlier decision allowing the Seminoles to operate a sportsbook in Florida. The plaintiff, West Flagler Associates, has been attempting to halt what it says could be a sports betting monopoly in Florida.

All is not decided however. West Flagler could still sue in state courts. Or it could appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Seminole Tribe could launch Hard Rock Bet again after ruling

Florida has not legalized sports betting since the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 to repeal laws that barred the activity in much of the country. That leaves The Sunshine State as one of the most populated US states without a legal sportsbook.

Florida online sports betting was actually live for about a month in 2021. Hard Rock Bet was available to bettors until the Seminole Tribe suspended the app in December 2021 after a federal judge ruled Florida’s sports betting model violated federal standards.

The Seminole Tribe had an agreement with the US government via the Department of Interior in 2021 that permitted the Nation to operate sports betting as long as the servers and betting platform are all located on their lands. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also entered into the compact to allow the Seminoles to operate sports betting in the state.

Soon after Hard Rock Bet in Florida launched, West Flagler, which owns two small casinos in Florida, sued, claiming the compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. They argued the compact would lead to a practical monopoly for the Seminoles until such a time as the state passes laws allowing commercial or statewide sports betting by all tribes.

That is when the federal judge ruled that the compact violated federal laws. Now, the US Appeals Court decision vacates that order, paving the way for the Seminole Tribe to once again offer sports betting in Florida.

“The Seminole Tribe of Florida is pleased with today’s denial of the request for an en banc hearing by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

West Flagler could request a stay to prevent relaunch of betting app

West Flagler could request a stay to prevent Hard Rock Bet from reappearing in app stores in Florida, whether it pursues legal action at the state or federal level. The Seminole Tribe may or may not await such a move before attempting to relaunch its betting app, which could only be downloaded and used on tribal land behind a geofence.

Opponents of the Seminole compact with the DOI and the federal government point to 2018 Florida legislation which requires that any new gaming in the state must be approved by voters at the ballot box. That law precedes the sports betting agreement between the federal government and the Seminole Tribe.

The legal dance between the Seminole Tribe and West Flagler has been going on for nearly two years.

In 2007, the Seminole Tribe of Florida purchased Hard Rock Cafe for $965 million, gaining control of more than 120 Hard Rock Cafe locations, as well as four Hard Rock hotels, multiple Hard Rock casino resorts and two Hard Rock Live! concert venues. The tribe now operates seven casino/resort venues.

Photo by Shutterstock / Illustration by PlayFL
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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a contributor for PlayFL with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He also has extensive experience covering the launch of sports betting in other states, including Ohio, Massachusetts and Maryland. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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