Casino Operator Wants Sports Betting in Florida Decided by Voters

West Flagler and the Seminole Tribe have had a long year in the courtroom.

Dec 26, 2023 • 15:08 ET • 4 min read
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A casino operator is attempting to keep the Florida sports betting market in its favor.

West Flagler Associates, which operates casinos in the Sunshine State, has brought an argument before the Florida Supreme Court regarding the ultimate fate of online sports betting in the state.

The argument — detailed in a 52-page response — comes after the Florida Supreme Court granted the Seminole Tribe permission to submit an amicus curia brief to dismiss a lawsuit involving West Flagler. The lawsuit concerns the language of Florida gaming legislation.

West Flagler believes that voters have the right to approve all casino gambling expansion under Florida’s Amendment 3, which would include online sports betting. The Seminole Tribe, which has support from Gov. Ron DeSantis, argues that tribes should have the exclusive right to offer online wagering in Florida due to language in a 2021 gaming compact.

“The compact defines a covered game to include “sports betting,” just like slots and table games. Where subsection (b) lists card games and slot machines as examples of casino gambling, the compact similarly treats all sports betting as a gaming activity,” said counsel for West Flagler Raquel A. Rodriguez.

The Florida Supreme Court has tough decisions to make as it considers arguments from both sides of the issue. Until then, the two parties will continue to reap the benefits of Florida gaming. 

Familiar opponent

West Flagler and the Seminole Tribe have had a long year in the courtroom.

In June, the D.C. Circuit reversed a lower-court judgment that blocked the 2021 compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe after West Flagler argued that the compact permitted gaming outside of Native American lands, which violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

West Flagler, along with gaming operator Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation, also argued that the compact harms business due to a potential monopoly. In response, West Flagler filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for a rehearing en banc to contest the compact.

Despite West Flagler’s petition, Hard Rock Bet — owned by the Seminole Tribe — launched online wagering operations in November after nearly two years of being shut down in Florida.

That same month, Hard Rock Bet paid a bettor $5.5 million after they won a four-leg same-game parlay on a matchup between the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals. 

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