SCOTUS Holds Conference About FL Sports Betting Case

Written By Steve Schult on June 14, 2024
The U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court held a conference yesterday to discuss whether they will hear the case against Florida’s sports betting model.

The nine justices will announce whether they will hear the case on June 17 or 24.

If they decide to deny West Flagler Associates’ writ of certiorari, it will end a nearly three-year legal battle. Additionally, it would cement the current structure of the Florida sports betting industry.

Legal challenge hinges on appeal of unique model

Three years ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe agreed to the 2021 Florida Gaming Compact. The agreement expanded gambling in the Sunshine State for the first time since 2010.

It most notably legalized Florida sports betting through a “hub-and-spoke” model. As a result, the tribe gained a complete monopoly over online sports betting and holds major control over the retail side of it as well.

The tribe’s Hard Rock Bet app is the only regulated option in Florida. As for brick-and-mortar options, they opened retail sportsbooks at their casinos.

However, if any of the state’s pari-mutuel facilities want to open a sportsbook, it can only do so as a vendor of the tribe. The pari-mutuel can keep 60% of revenue tax-free but fork over 40% to the Seminoles.

When the federal government approved the compact, a pari-mutuel ownership group started the legal challenge.

West Flagler Associates owned Bonita Springs Poker Room in Bonita Springs and Magic City Casino in Miami. They filed state and federal lawsuits claiming the model violated federal gaming statutes.

The state lawsuits were dismissed, but a federal judge agreed with the arguments. In November 2021, a district court judge said the compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The tribe and the federal government appealed, and last summer, the DC Court of Appeals overturned the decision. Thus, the Seminole Tribe relaunched its sports betting operations.

Odds are the court won’t hear the case

The Supreme Court hears less than 2% of the cases filed with the court. That alone is enough to doubt the likelihood of a hearing.

Gaming attorney Daniel Wallach recently said on X that denial is the most likely outcome.

However, he also said a summary reversal isn’t out of the question if they decide to take it. In that scenario, the judges immediately overturn the DC Court of Appeals ruling until they decide on the case in 2025.

If that happened, the Seminoles would be forced to shutter operations for a second time.

Photo by AP Photo / Mariam Zuhaib
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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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