A couple of developments occurred late Friday regarding the lawsuits seeking to block Hard Rock Bet from offering online Florida sports betting across the state.
First, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., granted a two-month extension for West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. to file their case before the nation’s top court. The decision means the plaintiffs in the federal case against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland now have until Feb. 8 to submit their request for justices to review the matter.
The plaintiffs filed suit against the federal government in August 2021 after the Interior Department deemed as approved the amended gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state to the extent it was covered under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That compact included giving the Seminole Tribe exclusive statewide control over online sports betting, a provision the two commercial gaming operators claimed exceeded the scope of the federal law.
A federal district judge in the District of Columbia sided with West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers two years ago, striking down the compact. However, a federal appeals court overturned that decision earlier this year. That decision allowed the tribe to resume offering Hard Rock Bet Florida.
Florida Leaders Respond To State Lawsuit
The second development took place just before midnight Friday when Florida officials filed their response to the lawsuit the plaintiffs filed in September before the state’s Supreme Court. Like the federal lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek to stop Hard Rock Bet from operating in the state. However, in the state case, they contend state officials exceeded their authority when they signed and approved the compact and passed a state law codifying online sports betting offered by the Seminole Tribe.
The plaintiffs argue that a state constitutional amendment passed by voters five years ago requires a popular vote for any expansion of casino gaming off tribal grounds. In its response Friday night, the state contends that online sports betting is legal as the amendment does not cover tribal gaming compacts.
Florida leaders also criticized the plaintiffs for waiting too long to submit their case before state justices. They noted a case where a former state attorney challenged Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to suspend him from office. Like the plaintiffs, the state attorney sought relief in federal court before taking the matter to Florida courts. In that case, the state courts ruled the filing was “unreasonable” since it was filed four months later than it should have been submitted.
“Here, Petitioners’ unreasonable delay was far worse… Petitioners invoked this Court as Plan C only after their two federal-court lawsuits failed,” stated the response submitted by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office.
State attorneys added that the plaintiffs could have filed suit in Florida at the same time, noting that two federal cases were initially filed. Besides the case in the District of Columbia, the plaintiffs also filed a federal case in Florida challenging the state law. A Florida federal judge dismissed that case in October 2021.
On the federal level, with the plaintiffs’ submission now due in two months, the federal government will need to respond to that appeal no later than March 11, with the plaintiffs’ response required two weeks later.
With state officials filing their response to the Florida Supreme Court case regarding Hard Rock Bet online sports betting, the plaintiffs are expected to submit their response by Dec. 21.
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