West Flagler Files New Brief With SCOTUS, Cites FL Court’s Denial

Written By Adam Hensley on April 4, 2024 - Last Updated on April 8, 2024
The U.S. Supreme Court

West Flagler Associates has filed a new brief to the US Supreme Court challenging Florida’s current online sports betting landscape.

This isn’t the first time West Flagler has had an issue with legal sports wagering in the Sunshine State. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court denied an appeal by the ownership group questioning the state’s gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

West Flagler believes the 2021 compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Why West Flagler continues its push against online sports betting in Florida

West Flagler tried to get the Florida Supreme Court to hear its argument against Florida sports betting. However, the court denied the appeal last month. According to the Associated Press, West Flagler filed the “wrong type of petition to challenge the compact,” resulting in the court’s denial. The group can still request a rehearing in the court if it chooses.

It’s important to note that West Flagler is not against online sports betting, or any online gambling, for that matter. The group owns Bonita Springs Poker Room and previously owned Miami City Casino.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida agreed to a gaming compact in 2021. That compact gave the Seminoles exclusivity over online sports betting, which also meant that any pari-mutuel facility wanting to open a sportsbook must do so as a vendor of the tribe. West Flagler took issue with that, and that same year, a federal judge ruled the compact invalid.

West Flagler views the tribe’s control over gaming in the state as a monopoly.

Flagler claims compact does not allow for betting off of tribal lands

In its brief to SCOTUS, West Flagler pushes back on the gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. They highlight the court’s use of “authorization” in denying the appeal.

“However, 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.”

The group believes the compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act because online sports betting is taking place off tribal lands.

One Supreme Court justice is concerned with the Florida gaming compact

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has an issue with Florida’s gaming compact. There’s a chance other justices feel the same way.

In December, Kavanaugh released a statement sharing his concern that the Seminole Tribe could “conduct off-reservation gaming operations.”

In short, the justice believes this raises “serious equal protection issues” should the Seminole Tribe be the only entity to offer gaming options off-reservation within Florida.

Professor doesn’t believe the Supreme Court will have interest in the issue

Bob Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, believes nothing will change in the state.

It’s unknown when SCOTUS will act on the issue, but Jarvis told PlayFL that he doesn’t believe anything will change.

“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.”

Photo by AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais
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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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