Governor DeSantis and Seminole Tribe Ask for Dismissal of Florida Sports Betting Case

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Governor DeSantis and Seminole Tribe Ask for Dismissal of Florida Sports Betting Case

When will the legal battle over Florida sports betting finally end? If the Seminole Tribe and Governor Ron DeSantis get their way, it will already have concluded.

As sports betting continues getting relaunched across Florida, the litigation remains ongoing. The Florida Supreme Court recently upheld a 2021 gaming compact brokered by DeSantis between the Seminole Tribe and the state. This freed up the Seminole Tribe to relaunch Florida sports betting services both in-person at their casinos and online through their mobile wagering app powered by Hard Rock Bet. But the rollout of sports gambling in Florida has not spelled the end of the litigation. In some ways, it’s done the exact opposite.

West Flagler Associates, the plaintiffs in the case, have filed multiple motions to have sports betting in Florida shut down until a final resolution is reached. Some of these motions have already been dismissed by the Florida Supreme Court. At least one other is pending. And that’s on top of West Flagler Associates taking their case to the United States Supreme Court.

But as gambling enthusiasts, industry experts, lawyers, state officials and many more wait to see whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case, Governor DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe are trying to get the entire thing thrown out. 

This, quite obviously, is in their best interests. Both the Seminole Tribe and state of Florida stand to make a bunch of money off their gaming compact. But will their attempt to end this legal battle once and for all be successful?

Throughout this process, many have expressed confusion over who’s challenging who. Are the state and the Seminoles on the same side? Opposing sides? Sides that are independent of one another? Let’s explore all the angles of this continued ordeal.

The State and The Seminole Tribe Remain in Lockstep When It Comes to Florida Sports Betting Law

Essentially, the state and the Seminoles are on the same side. They may not be acting in concert at every turn, but their interests are totally aligned. Remember: It was Governor DeSantis who negotiated the Seminoles’ gaming compact on behalf of the state. And that agreement stood to net Florida $500 million or more per year from the Seminole Tribe’s sports gambling operations. Clearly, The Sunshine State would not take exception to anything the Seminoles are doing. They’ve empowered it.

Not surprisingly, then, Governor DeSantis recently asked the Florida Supreme Court to dismiss the latest filing from West Flagler Associates. The Seminole Tribe proceeded to do the same shortly thereafter. Here’s Robert Simmons of with the lowdown on the situation:

The Seminole Tribe has fired back the petition for a Florida Supreme Court review of the compact enabling it to operate sports betting in the Sunshine State, branding it ‘untimely, unwarranted, and impermissible.’ Filing a 33-page Amicus Curiae in support of respondents including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the tribal gaming operator defended its interests against the ‘repeated and unsuccessful’ attempts by West Flagler Associates and the Bonita Fort Myers Corporation to overturn the 30-year agreement

“‘The Tribe and State worked together under the authority of Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and Florida law to negotiate a carefully crafted gaming agreement that resolves years of previous disputes and greatly benefits both the Tribe and State,’ the Seminole Tribe’s Amicus Curiae stated. ‘West Flagler’s federal court challenges have failed, and West Flagler now seeks extraordinary relief from this Court. West Flagler’s untimely, unwarranted, and impermissible attempt to use a writ of quo warrant to invalidate a duly enacted Florida statute should be denied.”

Does West Flagler Associates Have Any Legs Left to Stand on?

This is perhaps the strongest message of opposition the Seminoles have communicated since the Florida sports betting litigation began over two years ago. And that makes sense. The Seminole Tribe just relaunched their Florida sports betting operations. They wouldn’t have done that if they were prepared to repeal them again.

It remains to be seen how this latest motion will play out. The prevailing belief favors the Seminole Tribe and state of Florida. The Florida Supreme Court has already ruled on the side of the gaming compact numerous times. Nothing else has happened to suggest they’ll change their mind. 

Now, the potential case with the United States Supreme Court is a different story. The federal level is a different beast altogether. They can have a polar opposite view on the matter and enforce it. 

At the moment, they are reportedly reviewing the case. Their decision on whether to hear formal arguments isn’t expected until sometime in 2024. But counter to the Florida Supreme Court filings, the U.S. Supreme Court is one many experts believe have legs. 

Under the terms of the Florida sports betting compact with the Seminoles, sports gambling services can only be operated on tribal property. But the tribe allows users to access their mobile sports betting app from anywhere in the USA. West Flagler Associates argues this violates the IGRA. The Seminoles maintain their app is an extension of tribal property, and that this interpretation was negotiated legally with the state.

There’s Still No End to the Florida Sports Betting Litigation in Sight

Really, the latest Florida sports betting litigation updates are simply proof this case isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

Sure, the Seminoles and the state may have the Florida Supreme Court on their side. But there’s enough opposition among other casino operators in the state to keep pushing this matter forward. And this says nothing of the online sportsbooks in the United States who have helped campaign on behalf of West Flagler Associates’ cause.

With all of this in mind, many saw the relaunch of Florida online sports betting as a step toward closure. “Would the Seminoles really reopen for business if they were in danger of losing this case?” That’s how the thinking went. And how it still goes. But this issue is more complicated than any one side’s interpretation of Florida sports betting law.

At this rate, the only interpretation that matters is the one we’ve yet to hear: that from the United States Supreme Court. And as a body that operates on their own timeline, it’s impossible to say when—or if—they’ll bring closure to this matter. 

One thing’s for sure: There is no end to the Florida sports betting battle in sight.

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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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