Industry Expert Predicts Seminole Tribe will Win Florida Sports Betting Battle

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Oct 28, 2022 12:00 AM
Who will win the Florida sports betting battle?

Need proof of how quickly the Florida sports betting battle can change? Look no further than the latest update.

With legal Florida sports betting still in limbo after it was repealed to close out 2021, a handful of industry insiders have started to whisper about a final verdict being rendered sometime in the near future. A few have even started going on record about it. And the prevailing sentiment is now that the Seminole tribe will come out on top of the Florida legal sports betting battle.

This represents a stark change from not too long ago. Earlier this month, in fact, we covered how most signs pointed toward the Seminole tribe losing their Florida sports betting appeal.

To be clear, that outcome is still on the table. But even if the Seminole tribe fails to get back their sports betting rights under their desired terms, it's starting to feel like they are at least going to get some of those rights stored. 

Prominent Lobbyist Believes the Seminole Tribe will Prevail

The latest person to predict a sports betting win for the Seminole tribe is Bill Pascrell III, a lobbyist with Princeton Public Affairs Group. He also happens to be a former Bureau of Indian Affairs attorney and a longtime tribal law observer. Speaking with Gaming Today, he indicated that the Seminole tribe has too much legal standing to eventually lose the Florida sports betting battle.

“I believe that Governor [Ron] DeSantis and the Seminoles will ultimately prevail,” he recently said. “I am a bit of a betting man, and I would always double down with [Seminole Gaming chief executive officer] Jim Allen, Governor DeSantis and the Seminoles. I’m a lawyer and I believe in their legal arguments. I’m not saying this is going to happen easily, but I think they have a good plan and I’m looking forward to seeing it unfold. And I think it will successfully."

Though Pascrell doesn't get into specific details, we've covered this saga long enough to read in between the lines. A district court overruled the gaming compact the Seminoles struck with DeSantis towards the end of 2021. The tribe had exclusive rights to the state's sports betting market, and under the terms of their agreement, no mobile sportsbook was permitted to enter the landscape.

However, the Seminoles went on to release their own sports betting app in partnership with the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel. This rankled corporate online sportsbooks and their lobbyists, who aggressively campaigned to have the gaming compact overturned. As you may know by now, they were successful, and the battle for Florida sports betting has been tied up in litigation ever since.

This makes Pascrell's proclamation somewhat surprising. It sure seems like the Seminoles are standing in a legal gray area. Their gaming compact didn't allow for mobile sports betting, and yet, they're trying to argue their own mobile sports betting app doesn't violate the terms. That feels very much like saying two plus two equals five. But, apparently, that may not be the point.

Progress is Potentially being Made in the Florida Sports Betting Battle

All along, the focus for the Seminoles has been restoring Florida sports betting without putting constraints on their mobile betting app. This means they're seeking to allow people to use it even when they're not on tribal grounds. They argue that this doesn't violate the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act because the app is an extension of tribal property itself.

It isn't clear whether a judge—or, eventually, the Supreme Court—will see things the same way. But even if they don't, legal experts generally expect the Seminoles to retain their Florida sports betting exclusivity. 

Corporate online sportsbooks have hoped these legal proceedings were an opportunity to amend the state's laws. But the support put behind tribal-only sports betting by Governor DeSantis and many other prominent officials suggests the priority is preserving the Seminoles' exclusivity.

This may inevitably entail a compromise. Like we've already alluded to, we don't expect the courts to let the Seminoles accept mobile wagers from people not inside their grounds. Would they be willing to make it an on-site-only betting app? Or scrap it altogether and resume retail-only sports betting services? If they're open to either, it may be the key to retaining sports betting exclusivity while also bringing a more expeditious end to the now almost year-long Florida sports betting battle.

What This All Means for Florida Sports Bettors

What This All Means for Florida Sports Bettors

In the interim, nobody should expect any massive developments from the Florida sports betting battle. The courts have not set a timeline for their next ruling. And once it's here, this issue may still rise to the Supreme Court.

If and when the Florida sports betting battle is resolved, though, we can almost guarantee online wagering won't be part of the equation. That is a matter the state would need to vote upon, and with 2022 elections right around the corner, nothing can be done before 2024. The path to online sports betting in Florida gets even more complicated if the Seminoles' gaming compact is restored in full, since the agreement gave them years of exclusivity.

Essentially, there is no good news for Floridians hoping to partake in domestic online sports betting. That's not to say there aren't workarounds. People from Florida can create an account with one of the many reputable sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. Most of these locations allow you to bet on sports from anywhere in the United States.

We'd typically refrain from calling this a necessary solution, but it sure seems like one right now. Until or unless the Seminoles' gaming compact gets completely ripped apart, the return of sports betting to Florida will come with its previous on-site-only structure.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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