With Extension, Fall Is Earliest For FL Sports Betting SCOTUS Hearing

Written By Adam Hensley on April 10, 2024 - Last Updated on April 12, 2024
A picture of the fall scenery, which is when the US Supreme Court could hear the Florida sports betting case

The US Supreme Court won’t hear the Florida sports betting case for at least several months.

The Department of Justice requested an extension on the case earlier this month. This is the second extension granted by SCOTUS in West Flagler and Associates‘ charge against Florida’s current online sports betting landscape.

Now, the earliest justices could consider the case is this fall.

Group contends compact violates Indian Gaming Regulatory Act

West Flagler Associates, which owns Bonita Springs Poker Room and previously owned Miami City Casino, contends that the gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The group argues that Florida sports betting is taking place off tribal lands, which goes against what the compact allows.

In November 2021, a U.S. District Court judge agreed with their argument. It temporarily shuttered the tribe’s online sportsbook, but it relaunched its Hard Rock Bet app late last year after an appeals court ruled in its favor.

The compact allows online sports betting across Florida. The Seminoles contend that as long as their servers are on tribal lands, bets can be placed anywhere in the state.

West Flagler outlined its argument in a brief to the High Court:

“… in its factual recitation, the Florida Supreme Court gave the following description of the IGRA compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida:

‘Among other forms of gaming, the compact authorizes mobile sports betting by which participants may place sports wagers with the Seminole Tribe through a mobile device. Participants may be physically located anywhere in Florida when they place a wager, not only on tribal lands. Then, regardless of where the bets are placed, the wagers are “deemed” to occur on tribal lands.’

“This factual description conflicts with the D.C. Circuit’s holding that the compact should be ‘interpreted’ as not authorizing any off-reservation gambling.”

Court could hear case in the fall or not at all

Last month, the DOJ asked for an extension, which pushed the deadline for a response to April 12. This second extension gives the West Flagler group until May 13 to do so now. The DOJ said the reason for seeking the extension stems from its plate being too full with other cases.

Because the High Court hears oral testimony on cases only between October and April, the soonest justices could hear the case is in the fall. Of course, there’s a good chance the Court never hears the case.

Four justices must believe the case is worthy of a hearing. So far, Brett Kavanaugh is the only justice who has commented on the case publicly.

Kavanaugh said he is concerned with the compact. He finds an issue with what he believes is the tribe’s ability to “conduct off-reservation gaming operations.” Kavanaugh said that it “raises serious equal protection issues” if the tribe is the only entity allowed to offer off-reservation gambling activity in Florida.

Nova Southeastern University law professor Bob Jarvis told PlayFL that he believes SCOTUS won’t hear the case.

“The case presents no issue of interest to the Court. There is no national need for a ruling by the Court. And the Court, if it were to take this case, would simply affirm the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

If SCOTUS refuses to take up the case, the compact will remain in place, and the tribe can continue to be the only host of sports betting in Florida.

Photo by PlayFL
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, with experience covering online sports betting and gambling across Catena Media. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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