Why Some Experts Believe Florida Sports Betting Case will Go to Supreme Court

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 26, 2023 07:00 PM
Why Some Experts Believe Florida Sports Betting Case will Go to Supreme Court

As we continue to wait for the Court of Appeals to rule on the future of sports betting in Florida, more and more people are starting to believe the matter will wind up in the Supreme Court. And that's bad news for anyone hoping Florida sports betting will resume anytime in the near future.

To be sure, this is not necessarily an inevitability. We must wait for a verdict to be rendered on the lawsuit that pits West Flagler Associates (plaintiffs) against the Department of the Interior and the Seminole Tribe of Florida (defendants) before we know whether this case moves up a yet another level in the litigation hierarchy.

Speaking in absolutes is futile at the moment. As we get ready to close out February, there is collectively zero feel for how the Court of Appeals will rule.

Still, experts are pointing to a similar case over the fate of sports betting in Washington as evidence of what awaits for the state of Florida.

Could Litigation in Washington Set the Stage for What Happens with the Florida Sports Betting Battle?

The details of the Washington sports betting battle are fairly similar to what's happening in Florida. Their issue pits Maverick gaming against the Department of the Interior, as well as a number of Washington-State-based officials. Maverick Gaming, which operates sportsbooks and card rooms in numerous states, filed a lawsuit "alleging that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland acted improperly when the department approved the latest round of compacts between tribes located in Washington and the state itself."

This is almost identical to the Florida sports betting battle. West Flagler Associates filed a lawsuit back in 2021 contesting the gaming compact Florida agreed to with the Seminole Tribe. The matter has been held up in litigation ever since. A District Court judge initially ruled in favor of West Flagler Associates, which halted sports betting throughout the state. The suit was then sent to the Court of Appeals, where it sits now.

In Washington's case, however, the plaintiffs (Maverick Gaming) actually failed to get a District Court judge to overturn the state's gaming compact. They will now bring the matter to the Court of Appeals, and if they are again unsuccessful, they are then expected to contest it all the way to the Supreme Court. As John Holden recently explained for Legal Sports Report, this has industry experts buzzing because of what it could mean for Florida:

"There are both direct and indirect effects from this decision to watch. First, the direct effects: Maverick is already cited as intending to appeal the decision of the District Court, which would send the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. While it is impossible to know for sure, given that Maverick has retained Ted Olson, it would appear at least a good possibility that even if Maverick were to strike out again at the Ninth Circuit, this case could end up with the plaintiff filing a cert petition at the Supreme Court.

"While we wait for the appeal to be docketed, all eyes now will turn to the D.C. Court of Appeals, where we await a ruling on the Florida sports betting litigation between West Flagler Associates, and the Department of the Interior and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which is positioned similarly to the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, though achieved the opposite result at the D.C. District Court. The seemingly disparate results involving similarly situated parties could up the likelihood that the Supreme Court ends up taking a case on this issue, should that point ever come. Until then, all eyes will be on the D.C. Court of Appeals for its decision."

Why Florida Sports Betting Battle is More Likely to Reach the Supreme Court Than the Issue in Washington

Like Holden noted in his piece for Legal Sports Report, there's a chance only one of these lawsuits reaches the Supreme Court. And while this isn't necessarily an either-or proposition, the issue of Florida sports betting seems far more likely to wind up in the Supreme Court.

The precedent was essentially set by the first District Court decision. West Flagler Associates already won a round. If they aren't successful in the Court of the Appeals, they will still be emboldened to seek further litigation. Maverick Gaming, on the other hand, would be appealing the decision on the heels of a second straight ruling that didn't pan out in their favor. That makes it exponentially less likely the Supreme Court hears the case.

Of course, West Flagler Associates could emerge victorious in the Court of Appeals, earning a second straight win. Most still expect the state of Florida to appeal such a loss and push the matter to the Supreme Court. The gaming compact between them and the Seminole Tribe is too lucrative to simply table, and both the state and the Seminole Tribe have received the public support of the federal government.

A Supreme Court Hearing is Bad News for Florida Sports Betting Timeline

Given the latest speculation, we'd recommend Floridians explore sports betting alternatives. They have the option of traveling to a nearby state, or they can sign up with one of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks that allow anyone in the United States to create an account.

Pick whatever route. Or do both. It doesn't matter. All that matters is Floridians prepare themselves for an even longer delay in their sports betting timeline.

As things currently stand, legal gambling is unlikely to return before 2024. That timeline will only lengthen if the West Flagler Associates vs. Department of the Interior and Florida Seminole Tribe gets bumped to the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, it could be multiple years before Florida sports betting returns if the state and Seminole Tribe ultimately forfeit their gaming compact. In that scenario, Florida would need to go through the constitutional amendment process. That requires hashing out a new Florida sports betting bill during legislature meetings and then putting the initiative to a vote during the next general election.

And if the current litigation isn't resolved in time for Florida legislature to add a new measure to the 2024 ballot, they'll instead have to wait until 2026—which would put legal sports betting on track to relaunch closer to 2027.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs: 

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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