Federal Appeals Court Gives New Hope To Florida Sports Betting

Federal Appeals Court Gives New Hope To Florida Sports Betting
Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

A federal appeals court issued an opinion Friday morning saying a lower court erred when it struck down a gaming compact that would allow the Seminole Tribe of Florida to conduct online Florida sports betting across the state.

The 24-page opinion issued by a three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said that while the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act can allow a tribe “to conduct gaming only on its own lands” it also “does not prohibit a gaming compact” from including language regarding other matters.

In this case, the appeals court said the Department of the Interior was right not to reject a 2021 Florida gaming compact that gave the Seminole Tribe exclusive online sports betting rights.

“Whether it is otherwise lawful for a patron to place bets from non-tribal land within Florida may be a question for that State’s courts, but it is not the subject of this litigation and not for us to decide,” U.S. Circuit Court Judge Robert Wilkins wrote.

The Interior Department allowed the compact to go into effect in August 2021. Less than two weeks later, two Florida-based parimutuel gaming operators filed the lawsuit in the D.C. federal district court, claiming the compact violated IGRA and threatened their operations.

In November that year, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled in favor of Magic City Casino and the Bonita Springs Card Room. As a result, the Seminole Tribe was forced to shut down its Florida Hard Rock sportsbook in early December, a month after it launched.

Hard Rock appeared to have fun with the news on Twitter today.

Seminoles ‘Pleased’ With Ruling

“The Seminole Tribe of Florida is pleased with today’s unanimous decision,” spokesperson Gary Bitner said in a statement to FloridaBet.com. “It is a positive outcome for the Seminole Tribe and the people of Florida and for all of Indian Country. The Tribe is fully reviewing the decision to determine its next steps.”

Friday’s opinion sends the case back down to the D.C. federal circuit and orders Friedrich to enter a ruling on behalf of Interior Secretary Debra Haaland and the Interior Department.

That order, though, will be on hold for seven days to give the plaintiffs in the case time to consider an appeal. They may seek a review by the full D.C. Circuit or request the case go before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

A message to the plaintiffs' attorneys seeking comment was not immediately returned Friday morning.

FloridaBet.com will keep you posted on further updates in the legislation. In the meantime, bookmark this site for your one and only home to updated Dolphins playoff chances ahead of the NFL season.



Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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