Supreme Court Swats Away Florida Firms’ Sports Betting-Related Stay Request

Two Florida gaming companies sought the stay from the Supreme Court while they applied for a full review of a sports betting-related agreement.

Oct 25, 2023 • 19:19 ET • 2 min read
Matthew Tkachuk Florida Panthers NHL
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The highest court in the United States will not hit the pause button on a decision that could return legal sports betting to the Sunshine State.

An application for a stay of a lower-court ruling pending an application to get the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case was rejected on Wednesday by SCOTUS, potentially setting the stage for the Seminole-owned Hard Rock Bet to resume operations in Florida. 

“The denial of the stay by the U.S. Supreme Court is very good news,” Seminole Tribe spokesperson Gary Bitner wrote in an email to Covers. “The Seminole Tribe of Florida is heartened by this decision.”   

A long legal history

There is no legal sports betting in Florida at the moment. Hard Rock shuttered its Florida sports betting business in late 2021 after a federal judge threw out the Department of the Interior’s default approval of a gaming compact between the state and its Seminole Tribe. 

The compact included tribal-controlled retail and online sports betting but the latter’s inclusion in the agreement and its provisions deeming mobile wagers to happen on Seminole lands led to its spiking. 

That judgment was reversed earlier this year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. However, two Florida gaming companies challenging the compact sought a stay of the ruling from the Supreme Court while they applied for a full review. 

Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts had granted an initial stay pending further orders from the top court. The stay was officially rejected Wednesday, although the door is still open for Supreme Court intervention at a later date. 

“I agree that the stay application should be denied in light of the D. C. Circuit’s pronouncement that the compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe authorizes the Tribe to conduct only on-reservation gaming operations, and not off-reservation gaming operations,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a statement. “If the compact authorized the Tribe to conduct off-reservation gaming operations, either directly or by deeming off-reservation gaming operations to somehow be on-reservation, then the compact would likely violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, as the District Court explained.”

West Flagler Associates Ltd. and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. have yet to file their application for Supreme Court review, but they may have a justice or two interested in taking the case. 

Kavanaugh said the state law involved in the case does raise "serious equal protection issues" to the extent it authorizes the Seminole Tribe alone to conduct certain gaming operations in Florida off its tribal lands.

“But the state law’s constitutionality is not squarely presented in this application, and the Florida Supreme Court is in any event currently considering state-law issues related to the Tribe’s potential off-reservation gaming operations,” the justice wrote. 

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