US Supreme Court Okays Florida Sports Betting, State Case May Keep Doors Closed

On October 27th, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal from West Flagler Associates that implied Florida’s gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.

The challenge to sports betting in Florida suggested that online and mobile wagers are placed on the device and not where the servers are located. The US Department of Interior saw it differently and defended the “hub and spoke” sports betting model through the state and appellate court system.

West Flagler gained ground at the state court level but suffered consecutive defeats in federal appellate court and at the US Supreme Court. This latest denial ends nearly two years of legal battles and could potentially grant the Seminoles the go-ahead to begin accepting bets at their Hard Rock Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood, as well as via their Hard Rock Sportsbook App.

When Will Florida Sports Betting Return?

The Tribe shut down their sportsbooks in Florida voluntarily in December 2021 at the onset of the lawsuit against the gaming compact. Current conditions would allow for sports betting to return immediately, but that action could irritate justices involved in their separate state case.

No Casinos, a legislative action group opposed to the expansion of gambling in the state of Florida, has joined West Flagler in a lawsuit filed in the FL Supreme Court. This time, a violation of Amendment 3 is alleged.

The Amendment requires that any gaming expansion in Florida shall be put to a vote, and that didn’t happen in 2021 when Governor Ron DeSantis signed the new agreement with the Seminoles. There is language in the compact that allows for a change with federal approval, which occurred when the US Department of the Interior okayed the compact in 2021.

There has been no word on how soon we can expect to see the Hard Rock Sportsbook reopen, suggesting that West Flagler and No Casinos could have some legal standing.

What Happens If The Seminole Tribe Loses In Court?

If the compact is deemed unlawful, the challenge can then be appealed to the US Supreme Court, where the USDOT has a decent shot at attaining a reversal. If the SCOTUS were to side against the compact in any way, then the efforts to attain voter approval would likely begin immediately.

California sports betting was voted down in 2022, so lobbying efforts are not always a slam dunk in heavily populated states. The additional tax dollars from sports betting revenue could be a tough sell for Floridians since collections from other avenues, such as tourism, perform so well.

FL is landlocked by Alabama and Georgia, two states where domestic sports betting is not yet legal. 37 states plus Washington, D.C., have legalized some form of locally regulated sports betting, so it seems like only a matter of time before all remaining holdouts, Florida included, joins the party.

New York Times, Politico