In a move that could hasten the return of online sports betting in Florida, a federal appeals court on Monday said it would not rehear a case filed by two gaming operators against the federal government regarding the gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a one-sentence ruling denying the request made by the Magic City Casino and the Bonita Springs Poker Room. The decision by the full circuit comes less than a month after the plaintiffs sought the rehearing after a three-judge panel from the circuit unanimously agreed in June to overturn a D.C. federal district court’s ruling that threw out the gaming compact signed in 2021.
The lower court’s ruling in November 2021 said the federal government should not have approved the gaming compact that had awarded the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to sports betting statewide. The tribe, which owns Hard Rock International, had launched the Hard Rock Sportsbook (now Hard Rock Bet) a month before the decision but suspended operations in early December. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Department of the Interior must review any compact between a state and a federally recognized tribe. In this instance, Interior officials did not complete the review within the mandatory 45-day window, which meant that the compact was deemed approved to the extent it complied with the federal tribal gaming law.
Magic City and Bonita Springs sued the Interior Department, saying the portion of the compact allowing for Florida betting apps off tribal lands.
When Can Florida Sports Betting Start Again?
Monday’s circuit court ruling could trigger an order to the D.C. district court that it vacate the November 2021 decision. If that occurs, Hard Rock Bet Florida could get the go-ahead to resume operations across the Sunshine State. It’s possible Hard Rock may launch later this month. Hard Rock’s social media team tweeted a well-known GIF shortly after the circuit court’s decision involving former pro wrestler The Undertaker. While Florida was not mentioned anywhere in the message, it was a subtle nod that the app may be operational in Florida soon.
A spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe told FloridaBet.com that the sovereign nation is “pleased with today’s denial” by the appellate court. Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Monday.
Expect More Court Filings
Monday’s court ruling isn’t expected to end the litigation in this case. According to the U.S. Courts website, the plaintiffs have 90 days from when a judgment is entered to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider reviewing it. Odds are typically against the Supreme Court agreeing to hear a case. The U.S. Courts site says the nation’s top court typically receives requests on more than 7,000 cases annually, but it only hears between 100 to 150 cases each year.
However, given the nature of the case and the possible national implications, the justices may decide to hear the case. And even if the Supreme Court rules against the plaintiffs or decides not to hear the case, legal proceedings may still continue as the plaintiffs or others may try to sue in Florida state court by arguing the gaming expansion violates a state constitutional amendment voters approved that states any gaming that takes place off tribal grounds must be approved by a referendum.
The three-judge panel back in June said it would not consider arguments about the legality of Florida online sports betting, saying that was a matter left to the state courts.