Live Updates: Florida Sports Betting Launch News

Written By Steve Schult on May 9, 2022 - Last Updated on August 16, 2023
Latest Florida sports betting news

Gamblers in Florida have gone through an emotional roller coaster.

A new gaming compact expanded the state’s gambling options, a short-lived launch of an online sportsbook and even talk of the state’s first commercial casino coming to Jacksonville.

But the compact was a hot-button issue among the different factions that comprise the state’s gaming industry. Ultimately, those groups filed lawsuits and are taking that fight to the legal system where the courts will make some crucial decisions about how the state’s gambling industry will be expanded.

Given the political sentiment surrounding gambling in the state, it appears that a deal will get done at some point. And Florida sports betting will become a reality.

It’s more a question of how the market will function and when it will launch.

To keep you updated on the latest news, PlayFL will use this page as a timeline for all the latest Florida sports betting and gambling expansion news.

Florida sports betting updates – 2023

August 14 – West Flagler Associates files for a rehearing in the case

West Flagler Associates made another attempt to halt conditions put forth in Florida’s gaming compact. The plaintiffs filed a plea to the US Court of Appeals in hopes that the panel rehears the case.

In its filing, WFA argues that the June decision is a departure from previous opinions in regard to IGRA. There is no timeline for the court to come back on a decision in regards to the filing.

June 30 – DC Court of Appeals rules for 2021 Florida-Seminole gaming compact

The Court of Appeals vacated a ruling in November 2021 by U.S. District Court judge Dabney Friedrich that nullified the terms of the 2021 compact. The ruling should allow the Seminole Tribe to restart accepting online sports betting in Florida through the tribe’s Hard Rock Bet app. Due to court regulations, the earliest this could start would be late August, just in time for the NFL season.

Plaintiff West Flagler Associates could file for a rehearing or appeal the court case to the US Supreme Court. Rehearings are rare and it’s unknown whether SCOTUS would take up the decision.

February 28 – Washington lawsuit gives hope to Seminole Tribe

A U.S. District Court judge in Washington dismissed Maverick Gaming’s lawsuit against the Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Judge David Estudillo granted the Shoalwater Bay Tribe’s request for limited intervention. As a result, Estudillo tossed the lawsuit out of court.

There are several parallels between the Washington sports betting lawsuit and the one holding up legal sports betting in Florida. Both Florida and Washington gave most control over their sports betting industry to federally recognized tribes in the state. Furthermore, both Maverick Gaming and West Flagler Associates filed suit against Haaland and did not list any tribes in the suit.

The Seminole Tribe filed a motion for limited intervention at both the district court level and with the D.C. Court of Appeals. U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich denied their motion when she invalidated the gaming compact in November 2021. However, they filed the same motion with the three-judge appellate court panel.

Estudillo’s ruling to allow tribal intervention shows Friedrich’s ruling isn’t the norm. As a result, the Seminole Tribe has two legitimate ways to get Friedrich’s ruling overturned. The D.C. Court of Appeals could grant the tribe’s motion to intervene, which would result in a dismissal, or the court could overturn Friedrich’s decision based on the arguments presented by the federal government.

February 17 – Legal experts believe there is a decent chance Florida sports betting returns this year

A trio of legal minds all believe that after oral arguments, there is a decent chance that the D.C. Court of Appeals will overturn the U.S. District Court’s ruling regarding the 2021 Florida gaming compact violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

If the appellate court reverses the lower court decision, the compact becomes the law of the land again. Thus, the Seminole Tribe could immediately relaunch its Seminole Hard Rock sportsbook app and online betting operation.

John Holden, a law professor at Oklahoma State University, said most people he talked to believed oral arguments exposed how receptive judges were to the federal government’s argument. Daniel Wallach, an attorney who founded a gaming and sports law firm, said that Florida sports betting returning in 2023 “may not be so far-fetched.”

While Bob Jarvis, a gambling law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, believes oral arguments were irrelevant. The appeals court will rule in favor of the federal government because Jarvis believes Judge Dabney Friedrich erred in her district court ruling.

During oral arguments last December, Jarvis also said that at least one of the judges “showed great skepticism” towards West Flagler’s arguments. Oral arguments took place last December and a decision is expected in the coming months.

February 10 – Florida lawmaker files bill to revive harness racing

Horse racing and jai-alai are the only two sports Floridians are allowed to bet on. Following the final horse race at the then-Isle Casino at Pompano Park, harness racing ceased to exist in the Florida horse racing world. But Democratic Rep. Dan Daley introduced HB 275, which would give harness racing a chance to return.

Under the current conditions, the only horse racing in the Sunshine State is the typical horse and jockey style.

Florida sports betting updates – 2022

December 14 – D.C. Court of Appeals hears oral arguments

The Seminole Tribe, the Department of the Interior and West Flagler Associates all made arguments in front of three judges at the D.C. Court of Appeals. Additionally, Monterra AF and the State of Florida were given a couple of minutes each after the court granted the two amici parties time.

The hearing essentially puts a wrap on the appeals process for the Florida gaming compact, and therefore, a possible Florida sports betting market. Most expect a decision to be made about halfway through 2023.

December 8 – Woman arrested for alleged fraud during failed 2022 ballot initiatives

A 60-year-old woman is facing multiple felony and misdemeanor charges for submitting false information regarding signatures during the 2022 Florida casino expansion ballot initiative. According to the affidavit, there were inaccuracies between the signatures and the information about those voters on record. This included different birthdates and even some voters who allegedly died before the date they signed the paper.

The Jackson County resident was hired by Victory Labs, Inc. in October 2021 as a paid petition circulator. She was tasked with collecting signatures for the ballot initiative that would allow commercial casinos to enter the Sunshine State as long as it was not within a 130-mile radius of a Seminole-owned property. She was paid about $7,000 for her services, but there is no indication that Victory Labs knew of any employee misconduct.

But this might be the first of several indictments to come. The 2022 Florida sports betting ballot initiative, which would allow non-Seminole entities to operate online sportsbooks in the state, also used paid signature gatherers. And the Florida government appears to be aggressively investigating some of the tactics used by those workers. Neither proposal reached the nearly 1 million signatures needed to get on the ballot in 2022. However, all signs point to a second attempt in 2024.

It’s very possible news breaks in the coming weeks or months regarding more alleged fraud, which could sway public opinion regarding the issues during the next election cycle.

December 5 – D.C. Court of Appeals grants amici parties time during oral arguments

The court announced that they would allow both the Florida state government and Monterra AF time to speak at the oral arguments of the Florida sports betting appeal. The state government is arguing to overturn the district court decision from November 2021, while Monterra will fight to uphold it.

A total of five interested parties will speak at the Dec. 14 hearing. The Seminole Tribe, the Department of the Interior, and the State of Florida will argue to overturn the decision. While West Flagler Associates and Monterra hope to keep the status quo.

The federal government and West Flagler will each get 20 minutes in front of the panel. The Seminoles get 15 minutes, the State of Florida has five minutes and Monterra was awarded two minutes.

November 14 – Seminole Tribe and federal government file final briefs

The Seminole Tribe of Florida filed a reply brief to reaffirm their motion for limited intervention. They rebutted arguments from both the plaintiffs, West Flagler Associates, and the defendants, the Department of the Interior. Both parties argued against Seminole intervention in prior filings.

The feds, on the other hand, tried to poke holes in the arguments of West Flagler’s reply briefs from October. They also continued to argue that the U.S. District Court erred in its ruling to overturn the 2021 Florida gaming compact in the first place.

These filings are the final fillings before oral arguments start just before Christmas.

October 21 – D.C. Court of Appeals schedules oral arguments for Dec. 14

In a filing, the D.C. Court of Appeals announced that oral arguments in the Florida sports betting lawsuit would take place on Dec. 14. West Flagler, the plaintiff, and the Department of the Interior, the defendant, will make their cases in one of the last steps of the appeals process.

The court will also hear arguments from the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which is trying to overturn the circuit court’s decision to deny their motion for limited intervention. If the tribe is allowed to intervene, they will most likely file for dismissal of the case.

Most legal experts believe a judge would grant the dismissal. That decision would reinstate the in-question compact and legalize Florida sports betting again.

October 13 – Monterra AF files amicus curiae brief in support of West Flagler

Monterra AF, the group representing an anti-gambling coalition called No Casinos, filed an amicus brief supporting West Flagler Associates. The group wants the D.C. Court of Appeals to uphold the U.S. District Court’s decision from last November that invalidated the 2021 Florida gaming compact.

Last summer, when the Department of the Interior approved the compact and lawsuits began to appear in opposition, Monterra filed a lawsuit separate from West Flagler’s. West Flagler opposed sports betting provisions in the compact. Monterra, on the other hand, opposed the expansion of offerings at Seminole-owned casinos.

The compact basically gave the Seminole Tribe control of the sports betting market. However, it also allowed them to spread new games like craps and roulette at their casinos. Consequently, Monterra filed suit.

But the case was essentially thrown out of court. Once Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled in favor of West Flagler, the compact was invalidated. Therefore, there was nothing to rule on in the Monterra case.

Monterra argued that Amendment 3, a 2018 Seminole-backed ballot initiative that stated any gaming expansion must be done through the ballot box, prohibited the expansions provided in the compact. They doubled down on that opinion in the latest filing.

October 6 – West Flagler finally makes its case in the Florida sports betting appeal

The plaintiff in the Florida sports betting appeal finally made its case in the D.C. Court of Appeals when West Flagler Associates filed their opening briefs with the court. The 110-page brief was filed after the federal government and the Seminole Tribe filed multiple briefs.

Legal Sports Report’s John Holden called the filing “powerful.” In the filing, West Flagler made effective points that poked holes in the federal government’s arguments for overturning the district court decision.

They also argued against the Seminole Tribe’s motion to intervene. Most legal experts believe Seminole involvement would result in a dismissal and an overturning of Judge Dabney Friedrich’s decision. Therefore, it is paramount for West Flagler to keep that from happening. West Flagler cited De Cespel v. Republic of Hungary to argue that a suit can proceed without the tribe if a “party with interests aligned” is still involved in the case.

The tribe and the government seek to overturn Friedrich’s ruling. Thus, West Flagler argues the interests are aligned and the tribe is not necessary.

October 3 – Federal government argues against Seminole Tribe involvement in Florida sports betting appeal

The Department of the Interior filed its answering brief to the D.C. Court of Appeals. In a somewhat surprising move, the agency argued against the Seminole Tribe’s motion to intervene as an indispensable party in the case.

If the tribe were allowed to intervene, it would file a motion to dismiss based on its sovereign immunity from its status as a tribal nation. Many legal experts believe this is a plausible defense that would almost certainly end the appeal process and reinstate the 2021 Florida gaming compact. Consequently, Florida sports betting would return as well.

But the DOI criticized part of the legal standing the tribe was standing on to intervene. They argued that since the appeal is an Administrate Procedure Act appeal, the government is the only necessary party.

It’s a bit of a curious move, however, since a dismissal of the case, regardless of how it happens, would be a victory for both the DOI and the Seminole Tribe.

But there’s a possibility the DOI took this stance to save face. Part of the tribe’s argument for intervention was that the government did not properly represent its interests. As a result, it openly questioned the litigation strategy used by the DOI.

September 30 – FanDuel and DraftKings offer refunds to bettors affected by Dolphins QB injury

This development is only tangentially related to Florida sports betting. Two of the biggest online sportsbooks announced they would issue refunds to bettors who placed prop bets on the performance of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Additionally, they will refund bettors who had those same Tagovailoa-related prop bets as part of parlays, as long as the prop bet was the only losing leg.

The news isn’t particularly interesting concerning the launch of a legal Florida sports betting industry. But when you realize the operators issuing refunds were backing the failed 2022 sports betting ballot initiative, it appears this could be a way to buy goodwill with Florida voters for the initiative’s second chance in 2024.

None of the other major sportsbooks like BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook or Barstool Sportsbook offered refunds on the bets. However, it is commonplace for operators to make moves like this, meaning it’s probably this is just a coincidence.

September 11 – Disney CEO says the company could use ESPN to enter sports betting market

At a fan event in Anaheim, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that the company would not be selling its stake in ESPN. Chapek said that the sports media outlet gave the company an easy entrance into the lucrative sports betting market.

The comments cement Disney’s about-face regarding its stance on gambling. Late last year, Chapek said on an earnings call that sports betting was “something that we’re keenly interested in and are pursuing aggressively.”

But Disney was always one of the staunchest anti-gambling advocates in the Sunshine State. In 2018, the company contributed $20.56 million to help pass a ballot initiative called Amendment 3.

The initiative said that if it was passed, any further gambling expansion must be approved by the voters. At the time, the proposal was typically viewed as a way to slow the growth of Florida gambling by making the expansion process tougher.

But now that Disney’s deep pockets are interested in entering a potential Florida sports betting market, those millions could end up funding the sports betting ballot initiative’s second try in 2024.

September 9 – Pari-Mutuel executive predicts Florida sports betting launches in 2025

In an interview with Gaming Today, Magic City Casino COO Scott Savin said he believes sports betting comes to the Sunshine State in 2025. He added that pari-mutuels will have retail sportsbooks along with online betting options. West Flagler Associates, the corporate umbrella for the Havenick family who owns Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room, was the plaintiff in the lawsuit that tied up the 2021 Florida gaming compact, and the sports betting market, in the court system.

Savin didn’t explicitly mention the failed 2022 sports betting ballot initiatives. But his stated timeline indicates his confidence that the proposal will get on the ballot and be passed by voters in two years.

The 2022 sports betting ballot initiative was funded by a political action committee called Florida Education Champions. The PAC was backed mostly by online betting giants DraftKings and FanDuel. Additionally, West Flagler donated $4 million last April. In total, FEC received a combined $41.5 million from its donors.

The ballot initiative would allow for non-Florida companies to enter the state’s online sports betting market. It also allowed several other venues to operate a brick-and-mortar sportsbook. By contrast, the compact would essentially give the Seminole Tribe a monopoly over the market through the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model.

In April, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that these ballot initiatives did not need to start from scratch for 2024. As a result, the initiative has a massive headstart for the next election cycle. The initiative does not need to have its wording approved by election officials and can jump right into the signature-gathering process. Therefore, it will be tough for the Seminole Tribe to run a media campaign against the initiative as they did in 2021 and 2022.

August 24 – Florida Attorney General and non-Florida tribes file amicus brief in favor of overturning District Court

A week after the Seminole Tribe and the Department of the Interior filed the first briefs in the Florida sports betting appeals case, two amicus briefs were filed. One was from several groups representing tribal nations with gaming enterprises. The other was from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Amicus briefs are filed by groups with similar interests to the case but aren’t listed as defendants or plaintiffs. Both briefs supported overturning the district court decision that invalidated the 2021 Florida gaming compact and shuttered the shortlived Florida sports betting market.

The tribes argued that if the decision is upheld, it could affect tribal gaming compacts in other states. Moody, on the other hand, argued multiple points, but most notably that the compact didn’t violate the IGRA because it legalized sports betting statewide. Not just on Indian land.

August 17 – First briefs are filed in the Florida sports betting appeal

The Seminole Tribe and the Department of the Interior both filed their opening briefs with the D.C. appellate court.

In their filing, the Tribe argued that they should be listed as a relevant party in the lawsuit. In the original lawsuit, which the District Court ruled on, the Tribe wasn’t actually a part of the complaint. West Flagler Associates sued DOI Secretary Deb Haaland since she was the person who allowed the compact to become law.

However, the Tribe is fighting to be involved. They argue that the District Court erred by denying its motion for limited intervention and that the court failed to give it a chance to defend its sovereign immunity. If the appellate court allows the Seminoles to be a relevant party in the suit, it will almost certainly have the case dismissed because there is a lot of historical precedent stating that Tribal nations cannot be sued because of their sovereign status.

On the other hand, the DOI argues that the District Court had no right to overturn the compact. They cited Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community as their main citation against the appellate court. The 2014 ruling stated the federal government has no jurisdiction over what the tribe is allowed to do.

August 11 – FGCC denies Orlando pari-mutuel’s request to add jai-alai to the schedule

With the gaming compact still in legal limbo, Floridians can only legally bet on horse racing and jai-alai. But Florida’s newest gaming regulatory body voted against adding more jai-alai to the schedule this year.

In just its third meeting since officially engulfing the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, making it the ultimate authority on Florida gambling, the Florida Gaming Control Commission denied Orlando Jai-Alai’s request to add 40 more days of jai-alai to the schedule.

The request would force the board to alter the establishment’s license with the commission. Commission Chairman John MacIver said that the commission lacked legal authority to approve such a change. It slightly limits betting options for Floridians, but the pari-mutuel’s request indicates a resurgence of interest in the game. Therefore, it’s likely that in the coming years, pari-mutuels will be more likely to implement a jai-alai schedule or expand its current one.

August 5 – Gaming attorney claims Judge erred in ruling invalidating Florida gaming compact

While speaking on a panel at a gaming conference in Boston, Derril B. Jordan, an attorney specializing in Indian law, said that U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich made a mistake in striking down the Florida gaming compact. Friedrich stated that the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model used for Florida sports betting violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. As a result, the Seminole Tribe shuttered its online sportsbook less than a month after launch.

During the panel, Jordan argued when there is any ambiguity in laws or treaties regarding tribal gaming, the tribes should get the benefit of the doubt.

The IGRA mandates that all bets placed with tribal entities be made on tribal land. But the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model allowed only the Seminole Tribe to operate an online sportsbook. Since Floridians would be allowed to place bets on the site from anywhere in the state, Friedrich said it violated the federal standards.

However, Jordan said that this is a situation where the courts should err on the side of the tribe.

“One could argue, as the interior did, that the gaming is really taking place in both places… If there is an ambiguity and there’s two plausible explanations, I think the tribes generally should get the benefit of the doubt that as long as the server is on tribal lands, it’s gaming under the IGRA and it’s legal under IGRA,” said Jordan.

If the D.C. appellate court judges agree with Jordan, sports betting in Florida would re-launch in early 2023.

July 20 – DraftKings list Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the favorite to win the 2024 Presidential Election

This isn’t so much Florida sports betting news as it is news about a sports betting operator in Florida. From its Canada operation, online betting giant DraftKings listed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as one of the favorites to be the next President of the United States.

DraftKings listed DeSantis at +300, former President Donald Trump at +250, and current President Joe Biden at +550. But J.R. Duren pointed out that American citizens shouldn’t try and bet on the election.

July 8 – D.C. Court of Appeals updates timeline for Florida sports betting case

A second court document regarding the court case surrounding the Florida gaming compact was released. It updated and revealed a more concrete timeline.

Both the Department of the Interior and the Seminole Tribe must file opening briefs by Aug. 17. The final briefs will be submitted on Nov. 17. The document also stated oral arguments will take place at some point after the filings are complete. The timeline essentially establishes that there will be no resolution for Florida sports betting until at least early 2023.

June 21 – In a court filing, the briefing schedule for the Florida sports betting case is established

The filing gave a more concrete timeline for the appellate court. The Seminole Tribe has 40 days from June 21 to submit its opening brief. The federal government must file its answering brief within 47 days of the Seminole filing.

Thirdly, West Flagler Associates will have three business days to file an answering brief of their own. Finally, the Seminoles get 37 days after the West Flagler filing to submit an answering brief.

Given the timeline, the appellate court won’t have all three arguments until at least Oct. 26. At which point, the court can either make a ruling on the written briefs or schedule an oral hearing. Either way, it confirms our expectation of a ruling in early 2023.

June 17 – BetMGM and Carnival Cruises announce sports betting partnership

Executives for Carnival Cruises, one of the largest cruise lines in the world, said it made a deal with BetMGM to offer sports betting onboard select ships. Florida is the most popular state in the country for cruise-goers thanks to its long coastline and proximity to tropical destinations like the Caribbean. Carnival has ports in four major Florida cities – Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Miami.

Passengers on board these ships will be allowed to use the ship’s Wi-Fi to access BetMGM’s online sportsbooks. Kiosks will also be set up for bettors to use. Since Florida sports betting is still illegal, betting is allowed once the vessel reaches international water.

BetMGM will be available on Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America and Princess Cruises, all of which fall under the greater Carnival umbrella.

The company said sports gambling will be onboard “more than 50” of the available ships. But according to their respective websites, the three lines only operate a combined 49 ships.

As a result, it’s likely that all the Carnival-owned ships in Florida will all have sports betting available.

June 2 – DC Court of Appeals dismisses Florida gaming compact lawsuit

A trio of judges in the DC Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit filed by Monterra AF, LLC. Monterra sought to invalidate the gaming compact to keep the Seminole Tribe from spreading craps and roulette at their casinos.

The move doesn’t change much in the timeline for when or if Florida sports betting launches. But it does leave the West Flagler lawsuit as the only case against the agreement. Florida-based gaming attorney Daniel Wallach said that a ruling on the West Flagler appeal should come in 2023.

May 24 – Data shows Seminole Tribe paid just $1.7 million in taxes in other states where they operate a sportsbook

The Seminole Tribe operates an online sportsbook in New Jersey, Iowa, Arizona and Virginia. But not in their home state of Florida. The tribe launched its operation in the Garden State in 2019 before releasing its product in Iowa at the end of the same year. The product debuted in Virginia in July 2021 and in Arizona last month.

According to data compiled by PlayUSA analyst Eric Ramsey, over the course of the nearly three-year period, the tribe paid just $1.7 million in taxes to those state governments. Nearly all of it was handed over to the New Jersey state coffers. Under the corporate umbrella of Hard Rock International, the Seminoles forked over $1.47 million to New Jersey.

These numbers are dwarfed by the estimates of what they would pay to Florida’s government from sports betting revenue in the 30-year gaming compact currently being challenged in federal courts. Under the agreement, the tribe would pay at least $2.5 billion over the first five years of the new betting landscape.

May 6 – Gov. DeSantis appoints five members to new regulatory body

Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed John MacIver and John D’Aquila to the Florida Gambling Control Commission. He also reappointed Julie Brown, Michael Yaworsky and Charles Drago.

MacIver was named Chair of the Commission. He takes over the role previously awarded to Brown. Brown will join D’Aquila and Drago as commissioners. Yaworsky will serve as the Vice Chairman.

The appointments come just a month after Louis Trombetta was named Executive Director at the commission’s first-ever meeting. The continued additions to the board point towards a bullish outlook on the sports betting industry in the Sunshine State.

May 3 – Seminole Tribe stops making its revenue share payments to the state

The tribe announced that it would temporarily pause making payments to the state government until the lawsuits surrounding the gaming compact were resolved. Instead of paying the state, the tribe is putting the money into an escrow account they control themselves.

When a judge deems the compact legal, the tribe will square up its debts with the state. In the new compact, the state pays roughly $500 million to the state government each month.

April 19 – Gambling-related ballot initiatives get a head start for 2024

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that it will review the two gambling-related proposals. One of which would allow non-Seminole entities to offer sports betting and the other would allow non-Seminole entities to operate commercial casinos. However, the casinos must be located outside of a 130-mile radius from where a Seminole property is currently located.

When the court decided to review the proposals, it means that the groups backing the initiatives don’t need to have the wording approved during their second try in 2024.

April 18 – West Flagler donates $4 million to Florida Education Champions

West Flagler Associates is the ownership group of the two pari-mutuel facilities that sued the state over the gaming compact’s sports betting model. Florida Education Champions is the political action committee behind the failed sports betting ballot initiative. FanDuel and DraftKings donated $37.5 million to the group, while West Flagler is the first Florida-based company to donate.

In other words, it appears there is a widening base of support for a more free-market approach to sports betting.

April 10 – Monterra files a motion for its case to be heard separately in an appellate court

Monterra AF LLC submitted a filing with the appellate court that argued its case should be kept separate from the West Flagler Associates lawsuit. The legal team for the group cited the different legal precedents that the two cases are hinged on.

Legal experts said that this filing points to a timeline of six to 12 months before anything is resolved in court.

March 31 – Florida Gaming Control Commission makes first major hire

In the first-ever meeting of the Florida Gaming Control Commission, the new regulatory body hired Louis Trombetta as the Executive Director.

The hire itself isn’t particularly noteworthy. However, the legislature created the commission shortly after it passed the gaming compact. The fact that they are continuing to move forward with the group despite the legal challenges facing the compact indicates that the state government wants something to pass eventually.

February 22 – Feds file motion to consolidate lawsuits against the gaming compact

The Seminoles are facing two separate lawsuits against the gaming compact. One from West Flagler Associates, an ownership group of two pari-mutuel facilities. And another from Monterra AF LLC, a group comprised of businessmen and an anti-gambling group.

West Flagler’s complaint is centered around the sports betting model in the compact, while Monterra opposes the addition of Class III games to Seminole casinos.

Since the federal government felt that there was significant overlap in the two cases, they filed a motion to have them both tried as a single case.

February 18 – DraftKings CEO says he is “very confident” sports betting will be on the next ballot

Despite having his initiative defeated just a few weeks earlier, DraftKings CEO said during an earnings call that he was “very confident” that the issue would get on the 2024 ballot.

While he didn’t say much more than that, it does indicate that there will be quite an effort put forward by the company to pass the initiative the second time around.

February 9 – Department of the Interior files Statement of Issues in gaming compact appeal

Since the Department of the Interior was the federal agency that approved the gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida, DOI Secretary Deb Haaland was listed as the defendant in both lawsuits filed against the agreement.

As a result, it’s the federal government that is arguing for the courts to allow the agreement to pass. In February, the DOI outlined what it will be challenging in the appellate court.

  1. Whether the district court erred in denying the federal government’s motion to dismiss the challenges.
  2. Whether the district court erred in holding the agency’s action unlawful.
  3. Did the district court abuse its discretion in selecting a remedy?

January 28 – FanDuel and DraftKings announce their ballot initiative failed

Florida Education Champions, the political action committee backed by FanDuel and DraftKings announced they failed to get enough signatures to get their ballot initiative in front of voters for the 2022 election cycle.

According to the Secretary of State’s website, which tracked the verified signature count in real-time, the initiative was roughly 400,000 signatures shy of hitting the nearly 900,000 needed to get on the ballot.

In a press release, the PAC said that the pandemic was too large of a hurdle to overcome.

“While pursuing our mission to add sports betting to the ballot we ran into some serious challenges, but most of all the COVID surge decimated our operations and ability to collect in-person signatures,” the group said in a statement.

The two online betting giants donated about $37.25 million to the PAC.

January 13 – FanDuel and DraftKings recruit Dave Portnoy to help with the ballot initiative

FanDuel and DraftKings are direct competitors with Barstool founder Dave Portnoy and his Barstool Sportsbook. But that didn’t stop them from enlisting him to help get their sports betting initiative on the ballot in November.

The initiative would allow for multiple companies to operate in the state’s prospective online sports betting market. The new gaming compact would only allow the Seminole Tribe to operate an online sportsbook.

On January 18, Portnoy took to Twitter and told his 2.7 million followers to sign the petition in a two-minute video he posted.

Sports Betting Updates – 2021

December 13 – Seminole Tribe discloses efforts to stop sports betting ballot initiative

Campaign finance activity reports from the Florida Division of Elections revealed that the Tribe donated $10 million to a group dubbed Standing Up for Florida.

The group used a media campaign to persuade voters against signing the proposal.

December 4 – Hard Rock shuts down sportsbook app

Within 24 hours of Judge Friedrich’s ruling, the Seminole Tribe filed an appeal and a stay. The stay would’ve allowed them to continue operating the sportsbook during the appeals process, but it was denied.

Once the stay was denied, the Seminole Tribe closed its online betting operation and refunded its customers’ balances.

November 22 – Federal Judge rules in favor of West Flagler

Judge Winsor dismissed their state-level lawsuit, but a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of West Flagler about a month later.

Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that the ‘hub-and-spoke’ did indeed violate the IGRA. She called the Seminoles’ argument that they were in accordance with the law because the servers were on tribal land “fiction.”

November 1 – Seminole Tribe launches online sportsbook

The tribe launched its Hard Rock Sportsbook at the start of November. It was available statewide and offered new users a one-time $100 bonus bet.

October 18 – Judge tosses out the state-level lawsuit filed by West Flagler

Judge Allen Winsor dismissed the first of two cases filed by West Flagler Associates against the sports betting provisions.

“I now find that the pari-mutuels lack standing to sue either defendant, so I grant the State Officials’ Motion to Dismiss. That moots all other motions,” wrote Winsor in his judgment.

September 28 – Anti-gambling group files third lawsuit against compact

A group called No Casinos partnered with three prominent South Florida entrepreneurs to file suit against the compact. While West Flagler took aim at sports betting, Monterra AF LLC set its sights on the addition of Class III gaming at Seminole casinos.

The group said that the addition violated Amendment 3, a Seminole-backed ballot initiative passed in 2018 that said voters must approve any gambling expansion.

August 31 – Seminole Tribe files motion to dismiss the lawsuit

The tribe filed paperwork to have both lawsuits tossed out of court. The tribe cited its status as a sovereign nation as a shield from the lawsuit.

August 21 – West Flagler Associates file second suit against Florida gaming compact

Since the feds allowed the gaming compact to pass, West Flagler decided to file a second suit against the deal. But this time, they filed a nearly identical complaint in federal court.

August 6 – Federal government approves Seminole gaming compact

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is part of the Department of Interior gave tacit approval to the agreement. The regulatory body had 45 days to review the compact.

Secretary Deb Haaland never signed off on the compact and instead chose to let the window expire, which approves the deal. It is like when a state governor passes a law through inaction. It allows him to pass the law without validating its contents.

July 12 – DraftKings and FanDuel disclose 10-figure donation to Florida Education Champions

The pair of online sports betting giants revealed that they contributed a combined $20 million to the PAC to help their effort in getting the ballot initiative in front of voters in 2022.

July 2 – West Flagler Associates file first lawsuit against gaming compact

West Flagler Associates, the ownership group of Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room, filed a lawsuit to stop the gaming compact’s sports betting model from being implemented.

They filed suit in the Federal Northern District of Florida – Tallahassee Division Court. West Flagler argued that the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

According to the IGRA, all betting with tribal entities must take place on tribal land. However, the Seminole Tribe would service the entire state with its online sportsbook. The tribe claimed that since the servers were on tribal land, they were in accordance with federal standards.

June 24 – Florida Education Champions begin work on sports betting ballot initiative

A political action committee called Florida Education Champions filed a constitutional amendment with the Florida Division of Elections. The proposal would allow retail sports betting at professional sports venues and pari-mutuel facilities, as well as mobile and online betting throughout the state.

The initiative intended to add free-market principles to the Florida sports betting market. Instead of only allowing the Seminole Tribe to operate as the centerpiece.

May 19 – Florida legislature passes the gaming compact

Legislators called a special session to look over the details of the gaming compact. Sunshine State lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the deal and passed it by a 97-17 margin.

April 24 – Gov. Ron DeSantis signs new gaming compact with Seminole Tribe

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an agreement with the Seminoles that would legalize sports betting in Florida, as well as expand gambling options throughout the state.

In broad terms, the compact would allow pari-mutuel facilities to offer house-backed card games like blackjack. It would also allow the Seminoles to spread Class III gaming like craps and roulette.

Under its sports betting provisions, the deal set up a ‘hub-and-spoke’ model that would make the tribe the centerpiece of the Florida sports betting industry. The tribe would be the only operator in the online betting market.

Pari-mutuels that offer a brick-and-mortar sportsbook would do so as a partner of the Seminole Tribe. The tribe would receive a cut of the revenue those retail sportsbooks generate.

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Steve Schult

As Managing Editor of PlayFL, Steve will stay on top of all things related to the Florida gaming industry. He is also a veteran of the gambling world. The native New Yorker started covering high-stakes tournaments in 2009 for some of poker's most prominent media outlets before adding the broader U.S. gaming market to his beat in 2018.

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