Florida Sports Betting Lawsuit Awaits Seminole Tribe Response

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Aug 30, 2023 12:00 AM
The Seminole Tribe has until the end of August to respond to the latest Florida sports betting development.

We have reached a familiar point in the Florida sports betting debate: the state of hurrying up and waiting.

West Flagler Associates, the casino operator responsible for the lawsuit that first repealed sports betting in Florida, recently filed a petition for a rehearing after an appeals court ruled to uphold the gaming compact struck between The Sunshine State and Seminole Tribe. On the heels of that motion, we are now awaiting the Seminoles’ response. And for the time being, it is unclear when—or if—that response will come.

Regardless, the overarching impact of this delay all but guarantees Florida sports betting will not return in time for the 2023 NFL regular season. Week 1 kicks off on September 7. That’s a little more than one week away at this writing. And since the Seminole Tribe doesn’t have to file a response until the end of August, the timeline for the return of sports gambling in Florida doesn’t feel particularly imminent. 

Of course, this isn’t considered the end of the world. On the contrary, many expected the Florida sports gambling lawsuit to reach yet another standstill. Failing to relaunch betting services in time for Week 1 isn’t necessarily the meat and potatoes of this story anymore. Instead, it’s more about when sports betting will relaunch in Florida at all.

Why Hasn’t the Seminole Tribe Responded to West Flagler Associates’ Petition for a Rehearing on Florida Sports Betting?

The answer to this question isn’t particularly groundbreaking. The Seminole Tribe likely just doesn’t feel the need to respond before their deadline, if they feel the need to respond at all. 

Experts throughout the industry expected the plaintiffs to appeal the latest Florida sports betting decision. The Seminoles were, in fact, bracing for such a motion. But as many have pointed out, both industry experts and the Seminole Tribe also fully expect the petition for a rehearing to fall on deaf ears. Most don’t see West Flagler Associates having the grounds to reopen the issue.

What’s more, many sources who specialize in gaming laws also believe West Flagler Associates knows their motion is going to fail. Those same people think the plaintiffs went this route as a formality—to either buy themselves more time or to simply see whether they might get lucky. That sounds like an oversimplification on its face. But it makes sense.

Remember, most didn’t think West Flagler Associates would successfully overturn Florida sports betting back in 2021. And yet, that’s exactly what they did.

For those who don’t recall, a District Court judge at the time sided with West Flagler Associates, who argued that the Seminole Tribe were violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by offering online sports betting to everyone in Florida. The gaming compact between the Seminoles and the state allowed for gambling “on tribal property.” The Seminoles argued their Florida mobile sports betting app was an extension of their physical grounds. That debate has been the topic of discussion ever since. And where the District Court ruled in favor of West Flagler Associates, the Appeals Court just validated the Seminoles’ stance.

If a rehearing is granted, this conversation will be tied up in the same litigious process. But again, that’s not the expectation. Instead, most believe West Flagler Associates will try elevating this issue to the United States Supreme Court. That conviction has only intensified after they filed the petition for a rehearing, a move most see as a stall tactic to help them prepare their argument for the higher branch of government. In the meantime, many are wondering what this means for the Florida sports betting timeline

Here’s Why the Seminole Tribe May Not Relaunch Florida Sports Betting for a While

Plenty of gaming attorneys have acknowledged that the Seminole Tribe could roll out Florida sports betting operations tomorrow if they so please. The Appeals Court ruling grants them that power. However, this decision was rendered weeks ago, and the Seminoles have yet to make a move. Martin Vassolo of Axios recently explained why:

“The Seminole Tribe can technically choose to relaunch before the Appeals Court ruling, but that would risk upsetting judges and alienating customers if the sportsbook is again forced to shut down, gambling law expert Daniel Wallach tells Axios…‘The reason they're waiting is likely to await the outcome of the D.C. Circuit's action on the petition for rehearing,’ Florida Atlantic University law professor Bob Jarvis says. ‘If that's denied, that might be the trigger.’”

From the sound of things, it seems as if the Seminole Tribe will wait to relaunch sports wagering until West Flagler Associates’ petition for a rehearing is rejected. That should come as good news to anyone worried they might sit tight until the United States Supreme Court determines whether they’ll take the case.

At the same time, there’s no guarantee the Seminoles won’t do just that. The lack of movement on their sports betting services now suggests they’ll be ultra-cautious. They might be more inclined to relaunch services if they were only concerned with preserving their on-site operations. It is clear, however, the Seminoles also want to compete with the top online sportsbooks in the United States. And if they want to ensure their mobile betting services can be relaunched free of any restriction or the threat of getting repealed, they’re better off waiting until the Florida sports betting debate runs the entire legal course.

So, what does this mean for the sports gambling timeline in Florida? To be honest, it likely signals that, well, there is no timeline for the return of sports betting in Florida. At least, not right now.

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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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