On Thursday, US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts granted the request of two Florida companies seeking to block the restart of mobile sports betting in the state.
West Flagler Associates and the Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation filed that request to the Supreme Court late Wednesday to prevent the Seminole Tribe from relaunching its Hard Rock Bet app. Roberts’ stay is a temporary one — five days — to allow for a full briefing before him or the full court.
Chief Justice Roberts’ temporary stay ruling is the latest of a multiple-year court case that has shut down sports betting in Florida since November 2021. The two parimutuels hope the Supreme Court grants their request until the court makes a decision on whether to review their court case versus the Department of the Interior that has been tied up in federal court since the summer of 2021.
When contacted by PlayFL Thursday for comment on the ruling, a Seminole Tribe representative said there was “nothing new” for the tribe to share.
The plea by the parties come after the recent mandate by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that allows the tribe to relaunch its app at any time. They want the stay put in pending West Flagler’s petition to the Supreme Court to take up its case, in which the plaintiff has argued that the 2021 tribal compact, signed by the Seminoles and the state, violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
When could sports betting in FL relaunch?
If the Supreme Court grants a formal (not temporary) stay in the case, sports betting in the state will be on hold until late November or December. By the end of 2023, the court could make a decision on whether to take up the case or not. If it does decide to review the case, a possible relaunch wouldn’t happen until 2024 or possibly in 2025, Florida sports betting lawyer Daniel Wallach told PlayFL in July.
If the Supreme Court does not grant a stay, the Seminoles could relaunch Hard Rock Bet Florida as the only operator in Florida for bettors to wager online.
History of federal sports betting case
The compact authorized the tribe the right to offer mobile and brick and mortar sports betting, along with the ability to add craps and roulette as gambling table options in their six Florida casinos.
Hard Rock Bet began accepting wagers in November 2021. However, West Flagler Associates filed a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior in the summer of 2021, arguing that the new compact violated IGRA. In November 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled for the plaintiffs, thereby vacating the deal. A couple of weeks after that, the Seminoles took their betting app offline.
The US government appealed that decision, and in June, the Court of Appeals made its ruling vacating the judge’s ruling.
Second line of litigation: Spelling out the state court fight
On Sept. 26, West Flagler, along with Bonita-Fort Meyers Corporation, filed a lawsuit with the Florida Supreme Court in a different effort to block the compact, claiming that only voters can approve an expansion of gaming in the Sunshine State.
The lawsuit names Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Speaker of the House of Florida Paul Renner as defendants for their part in the compact bargained with the Seminoles. Also named is Kathleen Passidomo, president of the Florida Senate.
The complaint states that “[the] Governor and Legislature have attempted to avoid the Florida Constitution’s mandate by having the 2021 Compact and the Implementing Law ‘deem’ online bets placed anywhere in the state to have occurred ‘exclusively’ on tribal lands where the bets are received – a transparent artifice.”
West Flagler’s petition contends that DeSantis exceeded his authority by entering into the compact. WF argue that, as the compact is written, sports bets can be made anywhere in the state, not just on tribal lands.