It Looks Like the Seminole Tribe's Florida Sports Betting Appeal is Going to Fail

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
It Looks Like the Seminole Tribe's Florida Sports Betting Appeal is Going to Fail

Another week, another sign that the Florida sports betting appeal process is on the verge of imploding.

Sure, some may deny that's the case. But they're wrong. The evidence is all over the place, and it's all screaming the same thing: The Seminole Tribe isn't going to get their Florida sports betting compact re-instituted.

This started becoming undeniably clear at the start of October 2022, when the Florida state government distanced itself from the Seminole Tribe. It is now smack-you-in-the-face apparent following a recent 110-page rebuttal filing by West Flagler Associates, the plaintiffs who sued to put a stop to sports betting in Florida at the end of 2021.

Why is this filing so significant? And what does it mean for the Florida sports betting appeal process in general? And how about the future of Florida sports betting, period? And, uh, who exactly is West Flagler Associates and why do they matter? Let's get into it all.

Here's Why the Seminole Tribe Had to File Florida Sports Betting Appeal in the First Place

To understand why the Seminole Tribe's Florida sports betting appeal will fail, we must first understand how we got here.

Initially, state governor Ron DeSantis agreed to a 30-year gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. This agreement gave the tribe sports betting exclusivity throughout Florida. You could only place bets while on-site at one of their casinos or while inside their grounds. Online sports betting was also not legalized as part of the agreement. This prevented retail sportsbooks like DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM, among many others, from entering the highly sought after Florida market.

However, under their gaming compact, the Seminole Tribe was able to accept mobile bets from anyone who was within a certain distance of their casinos or grounds. This prompted outrage from other tribes within the state, as well as the general retail sportsbook community. As a result, a group of casinos and sportsbooks formed West Flagler Associates, which is a Florida Limited Partnership entity. Together, they filed a suit that claimed the Seminole Tribe's gaming compact created an unconstitutional monopoly while also violating state gaming laws to which it was supposed to adhere.

This suit was successful. By the end of 2021, with Florida legal sports betting having been live for only a short time, a judge ruled that the gaming compact must be repealed. Sports betting in Florida has been on hold ever since. The Seminole Tribe, in partnership with the state government, filed an appeal to get their gaming compact back up and running. But the arguments from their side have been inconsistent, and the Department of the Interior began distancing themselves from lawyers for the Seminole Tribe towards the latter half of 2022.

The biggest inconsistency hurting the appeal continues to be the interpretation of online sports betting. Essentially, the Seminole Tribe doesn't see accepting mobile bets on- and off-site grounds as a form of online gambling, since they should be covered under the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act (IRGA). But West Flagler Associates has argued the exact opposite and said this model does, in fact, violate the IRGA. They have also stipulated that if the state allows the Seminole Tribe to continue conducting sports betting under the previous terms, then the market should be expanded to allow for other tribes and retail online sportsbooks to enter the fold. And that brings us what just happened...

The Florida Sports Betting Appeal is Officially Falling Apart

West Flagler Associates just delivered what many consider a death knell to the Seminole Tribe's sports betting appeal. Where the tribe (and state government) have tried confusing the distinction between online and on-site sports betting, West Flagler Associates painted the tactic as complete fiction. Just take a look at this portion of their recent filing (via

“This contorted position requires the Court to ignore what the Compact actually says, and the obvious attempt of the compacting parties to obtain the imprimatur of IGRA to authorize gaming off Indian lands as if it occurred on Indian lands—federal authorization that was necessary, from the perspective of the Tribe and Florida, because state law did not permit such gaming.”

This reads like an opinion up for interpretation. But the interpretation has been made. This filing from West Flagler Associates has been met with a bunch of support within the United States District Courts. Though there is no timeline for a final verdict, the expectation is that the suspension of the Seminole Tribe's sports betting operations will be upheld. 

What's Next for Sports Betting in Florida?

While this is shaping up to be a huge win for West Flagler Associates, the status quo doesn't change if and when the Florida sports betting appeal is rejected. The state will still be without legal sports betting or a timeline for its implementation. 

This has left many Floridians irate. They still have the option of traveling across state lines or signing up with one of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks, but neither alternative changes the fact that Florida had legal sports betting only to then roll it back.

On the bright side, if and when the Florida sports betting appeal is shot down, new proposals can be worked into the fold. This will pave the way for the state to amend their partnership with the Seminole Tribe, or as many are hoping, they can decide to pass legislature that allows other tribes and retail sportsbooks to enter the market.

Whatever happens, we're unlikely to have a definitive answer before the middle of 2023. The final Florida sports betting appeal decision still needs to be made, and even then, the Seminole Tribe can technically appeal the failed appeal with the Supreme Court. Still, at this point, Florida should welcome any sort of clarity on what happens next, because it's been so long since they've had any.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one to use 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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