More Florida Legal Fun: Feds Say Sports Betting Mandate Shouldn’t Wait

It's either Hard Rock Bet or nothing for Florida.

Last Updated: Sep 26, 2023 10:07 AM ET Read Time: 2 min
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There’s no need to pause a judgment that could bring legal sports betting back to the Sunshine State because there’s nothing hefty enough for the highest court in the land to consider.

So says the latest legal filing in the ongoing courtroom drama regarding Florida sports betting, as lawyers for the Department of the Interior filed a response on Monday to a bid by two gaming companies to stay a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The companies want a pause while they seek a Supreme Court review of the judgment from earlier this year that will essentially reinstate a gaming compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe that allows online sports betting — whenever it takes effect. The document filed by the federal government on Monday says that the delay is unnecessary.

“A stay is not warranted, because any such petition could present no substantial question for Supreme Court review,” the Department of the Interior argues.

Hard Rock or nothing

Monday’s move means the so-called West Flagler-related entities have a week to file a response, and a decision by the D.C. appeals court is pending. 

In the meantime, there is still no legal sports betting in Florida. Furthermore, there may not be until the Seminole Tribe is fully confident it will not have to shutter its Hard Rock Bet sportsbook again in the Sunshine State. Hard Rock is so far the only online sports betting brand allowed in Florida if any are at all.

The court case prompting the filing from the federal government is regarding its decision to not reject a gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole. That agreement, struck in 2021, granted the tribe control over legal sports betting in the state before it was thrown out by a lower court, prompting the Seminole to shut down Hard Rock in Florida. Then came the decision of the D.C. appeals court earlier this year reversing the lower court’s ruling, but it has yet to take effect. 

Will they or won't they

At issue is whether the federal government should have rejected the compact for helping enable statewide mobile sports betting, including off the official lands of the Seminole Tribe. 

The two gaming companies, West Flagler Associates Ltd. and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., argued the appeal-court decision "contradicted Congress’ clear intent in enacting [the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act] which was to provide for gaming ‘on Indian lands,’ not to provide a means to introduce Internet gaming statewide.” 

It is not a guarantee the Supreme Court will take the case and review the decision, as most of the time it doesn’t. At any rate, the Department of the Interior claims there is no need to wait around and find out anyway. 

“This Court reached a narrow, case-specific holding about the meaning of particular language in one particular Compact under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (‘IGRA’),” Monday’s filing states. “Its decision makes explicitly clear that the Compact does not purport to—and as a matter of law, could not—authorize the gaming activities outside Indian land that West Flagler believes are illegal, and that West Flagler’s dispute is instead with the Florida law that does authorize those activities.”

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