Florida Sports Betting is Blocked...Again

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Oct 19, 2023 12:00 AM
Florida sports betting has hit yet another brick wall in its attempt to relaunch.

So much for the relaunch of Florida sports betting.

For now, anyway.

The United States Supreme Court has “temporarily halted” the ability for sports betting in Florida to return while they deliberate over the ongoing litigation. Their timeline for making a decision remains unclear. In turn, so does the future of sports gambling in Florida.

This news comes on the heels of the Appeals Court ruling to restore the Florida sports betting compact agreed upon between the state and the Seminole Tribe back in 2021. Many had hoped that verdict, which followed another that sided with the Seminoles, would pave the way for Florida sports gambling to return before the end of 2023. 

However, as expected, the plaintiffs in the matter continue to push the issue. West Flagler Associates, which operates gaming facilities throughout The Sunshine State, remains just as determined to invalidate the Seminole Tribe’s sports betting compact. Their argument remains the same as it did in 2021, when a District Court judge ruled the Seminole Tribe’s agreement with Florida violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. They believe the Seminoles should not be allowed to accept wagers via their Florida sports betting app unless users are on-site. The Seminoles remain adamant that their sports betting app is an extension of their tribal property.

How will all of this end? It’s too early to tell. But the latest details should at least clue us into the process that awaits.

Florida Sports Betting Expert Believes the Plaintiffs in This Case Have a Real Shot at Winning 

Soon after Chief Justice John Roberts issued an order that once again repealed the Seminole Tribe’s gaming compact, Evyn Moon from Fox 13 in Tampa Bay spoke with Daniel Wallach. Mr. Wallach is a gaming attorney in The Sunshine State who has provided frequent commentary on this issue. For his part, Mr. Wallach believes West Flagler Associates has a real shot at winning this case. As he told Fox 13:

"This is a bad deal for Floridians, bad for the state and terrible for the parimutuel industry. It would deter competition and wouldn't be a good experience for the consumer because if you're dealing with one sportsbook that has the, not only the dominant share, but control over the whole [market], you may get less competitive odds, you may get less attractive marketing inducements such as, free bets, bonus bets and second chance bets."

Opponents of this stance argue that opening the Florida sports betting market threatens the livelihood of tribal operators. If bigger online sportsbooks in the United States are allowed to set up shop, they will theoretically eat into both on-site and mobile revenue for casino operators. They also note that corporate sportsbooks tend not to funnel profits back into the state beyond their tax rates. 

Like almost always, both sides have meritable arguments. At the same time, the Seminole Tribe’s exclusivity issue isn’t specific to corporations. They themselves are infringing upon the ability of other tribes to capitalize on legal sports betting. 

At the very least, it seems like Florida should expand sports betting laws to account for other tribal operators. Of course, this opens the door for companies like DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, etc. to insist upon inclusion. But other states have managed to find a happy medium through partnership mandates and other creative structures.

The Seminole Tribe Knew This Decision was Coming

Although this latest ruling comes as an immediate blow to the Seminole Tribe’s potential plans, it is hardly unexpected. 

Technically, they have been allowed to relaunch Florida sports betting for some time. But their reluctance to roll it out—or even comment on its future—telegraphed their thoughts. The Seminole Tribe knew West Flagler Associates intended to keep sending this matter up the judicial flagpole. The optics of relaunching sports betting operations in Florida while the Supreme Court was involved wouldn’t have been great.

Indeed, holding off on a roll out cost the Seminole Tribe potential revenue. Betting on the NFL, as well as college football betting, is in full swing. But they’re also obligated to play the long game.

Sports betting in Florida was last live almost two years ago. The Tribe has missed out on tens of millions of dollars at the bare minimum. They’re not about to jeopardize the indefinite return of their sports betting compact by rushing to relaunch services. Especially when those operations may have been shut down within days.

What’s Next for the Florida Sports Betting Battle?

There is presently no timeline for the Supreme Court to make their decision. For all we know, it could be days, weeks, months, maybe even a year or longer. The stakes at hand, however, are clear.

If the Supreme Court sides with the Seminole Tribe, they will be free to offer legal sports betting throughout Florida almost immediately. If they invalidate the gaming compact, though, it gets more complicated.

Florida cannot just tweak their gaming laws to incorporate other tribes or online sportsbooks. Circumventing a constitutional amendment will still take time. 

Moreover, there’s a good chance an alternative form of Florida sports betting requires a constitutional amendment. The state isn’t likely to find a way to open the market to online sports betting sites in the United States without putting the initiative on a general election ballot. And the earliest that can happen is in November 2024.

But this assumes the Supreme Court’s final decision comes swiftly, with enough time to send a proposal through the House of Representatives and Senate. If the Supreme Court doesn’t reach a verdict in the next few months, then, the soonest we could see a new Florida sports betting bill on a general ballot is in…2026.

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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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