Florida Sports Betting Update: West Flagler Brings Up State Court Ruling In Federal Case

Florida Sports Betting Update: West Flagler Brings Up State Court Ruling In Federal Case
Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

The parimutuel operators seeking to shut down Hard Rock Bet’s online Florida sports betting app are using an order from the Florida Supreme Court that denied their request for review in an attempt to bolster the federal case they want the nation’s top court to take up.

Last Friday, lawyers for West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. filed a supplemental brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering a review of a lawsuit the operators filed against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for approving an amended gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state. That agreement allows the tribe to have exclusive statewide rights to offer online sports betting.

While the operators are suing the federal government in a case that started nearly three years ago, they also wanted the Florida Supreme Court to block the compact. In that case against Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state leaders, the operators claimed the compact and subsequent law approved by legislators was unconstitutional.

However, on March 21, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously ruled it could not review the case yet, noting that such reviews need to start in a circuit court. Lawyers for the operators, though, seized on a line from the Florida justices’ opinion stating that the compact authorizes mobile sports wagering.

How The State Decision May Impact The Federal Case

At the federal level, the operators have argued that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not allow compacts to include online wagering. A federal district judge ruled in their favor in November 2021, but that decision was overturned by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last summer.

“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 brief written by Boies Schiller Flexner attorneys Hamish Hume, Samuel Kaplan and Amy Neuhardt. “That conflict reflects the untenable nature of the D.C. Circuit’s interpretation, which was merely a mechanism for avoiding having to invalidate the IGRA approval since all parties agree that IGRA does not authorize approval of a compact that authorizes gambling off Indian lands.

What’s Next In The Cases

More action is expected in both the federal and state cases in the near future. In the federal case, the Interior Department has until April 12 to submit its response to the plaintiffs’ claims.

Meanwhile, West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers have until later this week to request the Florida Supreme Court reconsider the case. If that does not happen, the two operators may seek to file another lawsuit against the state at the circuit court level, most likely in Leon County, where the capital, Tallahassee, is located.

The Seminole Tribe resumed online Florida sports betting last fall with a soft opening for customers who previously registered for the app back in 2021. It launched fully across the state last December and has been operating since.

FloridaBet.com will continue to monitor both court cases, keeping you up-to-date on the latest developments.

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Author

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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