Sports Betting On Hold in Florida With Legal Moves Causing Possible Longer Delays

Written By Jason Jarrett on September 20, 2023
Photo of potential Florida bettor not being able to place wagers.

Kickoff postponed. First pitch called off. Tip-off put on hold. Use whatever sports term you want as sports betting in Florida is still in a circling pattern.

As the state nears the two-year anniversary of the Seminole Tribe’s mobile app being taken offline by a court decision, interested parties wait for the next legal filing or decision.

A motion filed Friday by a Florida-based parimutuel, who sued to stop the tribe from taking bets, kicked the can at least a couple more weeks down the road. Multiple reports predicted the tribe would resume taking wagers on its app, Hard Rock Bet, on Monday with the issue of a court mandate. That mandate, to be delivered by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, never came.

Friday’s motion to stay that mandate started a 10-day clock for a response. This was the latest legal move in a two-year-old court case that involves the state of Florida, the US Department of Interior and West Flagler and Associates, who sued to stop the tribe. The DOI has until Sept. 25 to respond.

Background on the FL sports betting lawsuit

In 2021, the Seminoles signed a gaming compact with the state that allowed the tribe to start mobile sports betting in Florida that could eventually add up to $1 billion in revenue to the state according to one lawmaker. The compact also allows the tribe to offer craps and roulette tables games for the first time at its casinos.

After the 2021 compact was signed, West Flagler and Associates sued the US Department of the Interior, arguing the mobile sports betting terms of the deal violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). In late 2021, a federal judge found the compact did not comply with IGRA. After less than two months of operating, the Hard Rock Bet Florida app was taken offline.

The DOI appealed the ruling, and in June 2023, the Court of Appeals ruled for the compact, vacating the decision. In August, WFA filed for a rehearing in the case. That was denied earlier this month.

What’s possibly next in the case

West Flagler and Associates still have a couple legal cards to play. If the parimutuel, which operated two casinos in the state when the suit was filed in 2021, wants to continue the fight against the legality of the 2021 compact on other fronts, it has these options to consider:

US Supreme Court Appeal

In July, Florida sports betting lawyer Daniel Wallach told PlayFL that West Flagler’s fight is all about “economic survival” for the parimutuel. With the DC Court of Appeals’ denial of a rehearing in the case, WFA could ask for the US Supreme Court to review the case. If the plaintiffs petition the US Supreme Court to review the case, Wallach believes the split of the decision between the DC Circuit Court and the Ninth Circuit Court could cause the Supreme Court to take it up.

The plaintiff would also ask the Supreme Court for a stay on the status of sports betting in the state, keeping the Hard Rock Bet offline until the nation’s highest court makes a final ruling on the case. This could come at the end of 2023 or early 2024 if the court takes it up.

Florida state court

Another move the parimutuel could play would be to file a lawsuit in state court to toss the 2021 compact. In the June decision, the Court of Appeals hinted at this battle when the ruling noted a federal court wouldn’t address a state issue.

“Whether it is otherwise lawful for a patron to place bets from non-tribal land within Florida may be a question for that state’s courts, but it is not the subject of this litigation and not for us to decide,” the Circuit Court noted in its ruling.

Bob Jarvis, a gambling law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, told PlayFL he believes the plaintiffs could argue that a 2018 constitutional amendment would stop any gambling expansion. Amendment 3, passed by 71% of the voters, gave Florida residents the “exclusive right” to authorize gaming in the state, blocking the state Legislature from doing so.

Photo by Shutterstock / Illustration by PlayFL
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Jason Jarrett

Jason is the managing editor and eight other states' websites, covering sports betting and gambling in the two states. He has more than 25 years of journalism experience, spending nearly 10 years as a senior editor at the Austin American-Statesman.

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