Casino Operator Seeks Rehearing in Florida for Sports Betting Case

West Flagler Associates, which operates casinos in the Sunshine State, is attempting to bring online sports betting sites back to Florida with a petition for rehearing in federal court.

Aug 15, 2023 • 14:43 ET • 4 min read
Jordan Travis Florida State Seminoles
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The return of legal sports betting in the state of Florida remains up in the air.

West Flagler Associates, which operates casinos in the Sunshine State, is attempting to bring online sports betting sites back to Florida with a petition for rehearing in federal court. The petition — filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — for a rehearing en banc is to contest a gaming compact between Florida and its Seminole Tribe. The compact, which was implemented in August 2021, provides the Seminole Tribe with the exclusive right to offer retail and online sports betting in the Sunshine State.

The petition filed by West Flagler comes after the D.C. Circuit reversed a lower-court judgment in June 2023 that blocked the compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. West Flagler, along with gaming operator Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation, argued in court that the compact permitted gaming outside of Native American lands in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act — federal law enacted in 1988.

The two operators also believe that the compact harms businesses due to a potential monopoly.

Difficult process

West Flagler’s attempt to challenge the compact between the Seminole Tribe and Florida faces an uphill battle. The petition for a rehearing en bac requires a three-judge panel to decide an appeal under existing federal circuit law. West Flagler will need to show that the panel has failed to follow existing decisions related to the matter by the U.S. Supreme Court or federal circuit. The gaming company could also seek to have federal circuit precedent overruled by the court.

Big opportunity

Online sports betting was authorized briefly in Florida in 2021 and its return could benefit an emerging operator. Hard Rock Bet, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe, offered wagering in Florida but stopped taking bets in December 2021. Since then, the sportsbook has expanded its reach to five states, which include Arizona, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, and Ohio. Hard Rock Bet is also planning to launch operations in New Jersey later this year.

In its first three months of operations in Ohio, Hard Rock Bet reported a $46 million betting handle. The sportsbook gaining market access in Florida could bolster those returns. According to an economic impact study by Florida Education Champions, online sports betting could generate over $340 million in tax revenue annually with a portion allocated toward education.

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