U.S. Court of Appeals Issues Mandate to Restore Florida Sports Betting Compact

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
U.S. Court of Appeals Issues Mandate to Restore Florida Sports Betting Compact

Yet another victory is now in the books for the Seminole Tribe and their Florida sports betting compact that they initially brokered with The Sunshine State in 2021. 

After an extended stay in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the battle over Florida sports gambling has now achieved some finality—at the state level, anyway. On Friday, October 6, the Appeals Court officially issued a mandate to “restore” the sports betting compact from 2021. The agreement gives the Seminole Tribe the exclusive right to offer sports gambling throughout the state of Florida. 

So, does this now mean that sports betting in Florida is on the precipice of a relaunch? 

Maybe. Possibly. Or not quite. 

Let’s not mince words. This is both a huge development for the future of sports gambling in Florida and, potentially, just another step in a long line of litigation. 

What does the latest decision mean? And what’s the status of sports betting throughout Florida as we know it? We’re here to break it all down.

How Did Florida Sports Betting End Up Here?

Before we get into what the future holds, it’s important to re-evaluate how Florida ended up.

By the end of 2021, the Seminole Tribe was able to offer sports betting services on their tribal property. However, after a November 2021 launch, a lawsuit filed by West Flagler Associates, a casino operator in The Sunshine State, forced the Seminoles to cease sports betting operations just a few weeks following their rollout.

As many know by now, the plaintiffs took issue with the Seminole Tribe’s mobile sports betting app. It permitted users to place wagers off tribal land, which West Flagler Associates argued violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. But the Seminole Tribe has insisted a Florida sports betting app is an extension of their Tribal.

During the first round of litigation, a District Court judge sided with the plaintiffs. Florida sports betting has remained non-operational ever since while enduring near-countless subsequent rounds of litigation. 

This latest decision flips that dormancy on its head. In no uncertain terms, the restoration of the Seminole Tribe’s sports betting compact is a big deal. First and foremost, it came a little quicker than many expected. Just a short while ago, a handful of experts were bracing for the next Florida sports betting verdict to take a couple of months. This expedited decision comes as welcomed news for gambling enthusiasts. Remember, it has been almost two years since the state’s sports betting compact took effect and was then repealed. Now, suddenly, the Seminole Tribe can technically resume their sports betting services. With that said, the vast majority of experts aren’t quite sure they’ll pounce at the opportunity.

Many Expect the Seminole Tribe to Wait Out a Federal Ruling on Florida Sports Gambling Battle

Previous speculation suggested the Seminole Tribe would hold off on a sports betting relaunch until the federal government—specifically, the United States Supreme Court—weighed in on the matter. But that was when it looked like the Appeals Court would deliberate over the case for much longer. This latest ruling could theoretically coax the Seminole Tribe into a Florida sports betting relaunch before Week 8 of the 2023 NFL season

Except, well, so many believe an expedited rollout remains unlikely. As we’ve already covered, the plaintiffs in this case long ago started carrying out their plan to elevate the case to the Supreme Court. From the looks of things, the Supreme Court intends to take the case. It may also be prepared to throw a curveball into the mix. As Robert Linnehan explained for Sports Betting Dime:

The Florida Supreme Court has taken several steps forward with the lawsuit, first issuing a briefing order to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Sept. 29. In the order, DeSantis is requested to file a response by Nov. 1 to West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation’s lawsuit seeking to invalidate the online sports betting language in the state’s approved 2021 gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. The Florida Supreme Court will also allow West Flagler to respond to DeSantis by Nov. 21

It also acquiesced to a request from No Casinos Inc., an anti-gambling group in the state, to submit an amicus curiae brief to the Florida Supreme Court in support of West Flagler’s lawsuit against online sports betting. Amicus curiae briefs, or “friend-of-the-court” briefs, are notices written by groups or individuals not directly involved in a legal case, but who could have some expertise or knowledge a court may find useful in making its decision. In its brief request, counsel for No Casinos Inc. wrote that online sports betting is “contrary” to the Florida Constitution, particularly Amendment 3, and its legalization will conflict with the will of the voters who approved the amendment.”

The presence of No Casinos Inc. in the process doesn’t just confirm the Florida Supreme Court is seriously deliberating the matter. Never mind the Seminole Tribe online sports betting app. If the Supreme Court journeys outside the scope of the gaming compact in question, it will impact all online sportsbooks in the United States who are hoping to one day enter the Florida market.

The Timeline for True Florida Sports Betting Finality Remains Unclear

Those waiting for an actual end to this process should…keep doing what they were already doing. 

There is currently no timeline for the Supreme Court to take on or rule on the Florida sports betting case. They could make their decision in a matter of weeks. Or months. Or even longer. 

In the meantime, the Appeals Court’s mandate affords the Seminole Tribe an opportunity to resume their sports betting services from 2021. But they’ve already had to shudder their operations once. They won’t want to do it again, which explains why the tribe continues to offer “no comment” whenever asked, on the record, about what they plan to do.

On top of that, legal experts are in almost universal agreement that it wouldn’t be a great look for the Seminole Tribe if they relaunched Florida sports betting while the Supreme Court was looking into it. At this point, it would be a real surprise if the Seminole Tribe tried to roll out sports betting, again, before 2024. But hey, this entire process has been rife with twists and turns. So, you never know.

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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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