U.S. Supreme Court: Florida Sports Betting on Hold

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Chief justice issues stay after appeals court upheld Florida Sports Betting deal with Seminole Tribe over summer

Florida Sports Betting

The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halted an appeals court ruling on Thursday that would allow the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer sports betting throughout the state.

Chief Justice John Roberts issued an order imposing a stay after the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia this summer upheld a gambling deal between the state and the tribe that included sports betting.

Roberts’ order came after two pari-mutuel companies, West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. sought a stay as they prepare to ask the Supreme Court to take up a challenge to the appeals-court ruling.

The order said what is known as a “mandate,” which is a final step in the appeals-court ruling, is “hereby recalled and stayed pending further order of the undersigned (Roberts) or of the (Supreme) Court.”

The paid of pari-mutuels argue that the plan was devised to get around a 2018 state constitutional amendment that required voter approval of casino gambling in Florida.

The U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees gambling on tribal lands, allowed the compact to move forward. But the lawsuit contends the compact violated the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, or IGRA, because it authorized gambling off tribal lands.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in November 2021 ruled against the compact, calling the sports-betting plan a “fiction” and invalidating other parts of the agreement. A panel of the appeals court on June 30 reversed Friedrich’s ruling, and the full appeals court in September refused to reconsider the challenge.

The order did not detail Roberts’ reasons for the decision.

Florida Sports Betting

The two pari-mutuel companies filed the lawsuit in 2021 after Florida lawmakers ratified a gambling deal, which had been signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida. The deal is known as a compact.

While the compact addresses a series of issues, the lawsuit is about a plan that would allow gamblers to place mobile sports bets anywhere in the state, with bets handled by computer servers on tribal property. The deal said bets “using a mobile app or other electronic device, shall be deemed to be exclusively conducted by the Seminole tribe.”

Roberts’ order gave the Department of Interior and the Seminole tribe until Oct. 18 to respond.

The Seminoles briefly rolled out the Hard Rock SportsBook mobile app in 2021 but stopped accepting wagers and deposits on the app after Friedrich’s ruling.

West Flagler holds three jai alai licenses, while Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. does business as Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida.

Meanwhile, the pari-mutuel companies last month filed a separate case at the Florida Supreme Court alleging that the compact runs afoul of the 2018 constitutional amendment. That case is pending.

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