The Florida Sports Betting Saga May Soon be Coming to an End

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 31, 2024 08:00 PM
The Florida Sports Betting Saga May Soon be Coming to an End

Could the years-long battle over the legality of Florida sports betting finally be approaching an end? 

It sure sounds like it.

For months, the future of sports betting in Florida has seemingly been at the mercy of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Following a decision from the Florida Supreme Court to permit Seminole Tribe sports betting at the end of last year, all the key stakeholders involved have essentially been waiting on SCOTUS to decide whether it will take on the case brought forth by West Flagler Associates, a gaming operator with facilities across the Sunshine State.

Depending on the month, week and day, impressions of what comes next have varied. For a while, it looked like SCOTUS would take on the Florida sports betting case. Now, however, experts believe West Flagler Associates’ lawsuit will not make it on the federal docket. 

How have we ended up here? Why is SCOTUS unlikely to rule on sports gambling in Florida? Should we brace ourselves for any additional curveballs? And, above all, do we have any idea when this prolonged Florida sports betting litigation will actually come to an end? 

Like always, let’s see if we can parse the latest news for concrete answers.

Here’s Why SCOTUS May Pass on Hearing the Florida Sports Betting Case  

Everything officially comes down to SCOTUS now. West Flagler Associates filed their writ of petition with the U.S. Supreme Court roughly forever ago. And most recently, the Department of the Interior (DOI) responded to that filing. Now, it’s on SCOTUS to decide whether they’ll take the case. 

In the aftermath of the DOI’s response, gaming legality expert John Holden told Legal Sports Report’s Mike Mazzeo that the chances of SCOTUS taking the Florida sports betting case remain “very low.” Here is Holden’s extended response (via LSR):

“Holden was not surprised by the Department of the Interior’s response. ‘It states pretty much what you’d expected it to say,’ Holden said. ‘DOI comes out and says that the Court of Appeals was right, that the compact was fine. They use similar language as the appeals court, that there’s a separation between what state law authorizes and what the compact authorizes. That’s where the conflict between West Flagler and the DOI exists. The UIGEA argument, I can’t believe that argument is still hanging around. I don’t think that’s an especially strong argument.”

Holden isn’t alone in doubting the merit of West Flagler’s case. Ryan Roderberg, a Florida State University professor, explained to Mazzeo that only certain elements of West Flagler’s stance are compelling. That significantly lowers the chances, it seems, of SCOTUS taking the case. Especially when, as he says, the “[Joe] Biden Administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer makes a three-pronged argument as to why West Flagler’s cert petition should be denied.”

What Is West Flagler Associates’ Primary Argument at This Point?

Not much has changed on this front to be honest. West Flagler Associates is still primarily arguing that the Seminole Tribe’s Florida sports betting compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA)

This stance ends up being twofold. Firstly, the lawsuit argues that the Seminole Tribe’s sports betting exclusivity is unconstitutional, and that sports gambling in Florida should be legalized through a constitutional amendment or a gaming compact that incorporates more operators. 

However, the issue of online sports betting in Florida continues to take center stage. Under the Seminole Tribe’s gaming compact, they are allowed to offer on-site sports betting only. West Flagler Associates has taken exception with the launch of a Florida sports betting app by the Seminoles that customers can access and use anywhere inside the state. The lawsuit contends that not only does this violate the IGRA, but it infringes upon the terms of the Seminole Tribe’s own gaming compact with the Sunshine State.

The Seminoles, however, argue that their Hard Rock Florida sports betting site should be accessible anywhere in the state. Servers that support the app, they contend, are located on tribal property. That, to them, means the Hard Rock Florida sports betting app is an extension of tribal property.

Though a District Court in Florida sided with West Flagler Associates when Florida sports betting first launched in 2021, its ruling was upended by the  Florida Supreme Court in late 2023. And if experts like Holden and Roderberg are correct, SCOTUS will wind up feeling the same way.

Timeline for Florida Sports Betting Decision

The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether it will hear West Flagler Associates’ case later this month. If they opt against it, this would effectively end the Florida sports betting litigation.

On the flip side, if SCOTUS hears the case, a decision on the Florida sports gambling lawsuit isn’t expected to come until sometime in 2025. In the event this happens, meanwhile, it isn’t clear whether Florida sports betting will remain active while the case is deliberated. 

At the moment, though, it looks and sounds and feels like SCOTUS will pass on hearing the case. But just in case they do, Floridians would be wise to bookmark our running list of the top online sportsbooks in the United States. The Sunshine State has already needed to shudder Seminole Tribe sports betting operations once. It would be wise to have contingencies and alternatives in case the same thing happens again.

Not that it will happen again. Once more, it seems like this entire saga will end later this month. But the issue of Florida sports betting has delivered curveball after curveball over the past two-plus years. We shouldn’t believe the litigious process is over until, you know, it’s actually over.

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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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