Florida Sports Betting is Officially on Hold Again

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Aug 20, 2023 12:00 AM
Florida sports betting is back on hold. How long will the delay last?

For a short while, it looked like Florida sports betting might relaunch in time for the 2023 NFL season. Now, frankly, it seems as if The Sunshine State will be fortunate if sports gambling returns in advance of the 2024 NFL season.

To be sure, the Seminole Tribe could still technically roll out sports betting in Florida at any moment. A D.C. Circuit Court judge recently ruled in their favor, overturning a 2021 District Court verdict that repealed active sports gambling inside the state. As things currently stand, the Seminole Tribe’s gaming compact with Florida is reinstated. That’s not speculation, either. This has been confirmed and reiterated by a multitude of industry experts, including attorneys who specialize in gaming laws.

However, the latest development suggests the Seminole Tribe will put any plans to relaunch their sports betting operations on hold. West Flagler Associates, the plaintiffs in this case and an operator of casinos in Florida, has filed a “petition for rehearing” on the recent ruling in the D.C. Circuit. As we wrote about previously, this wasn’t an expected move. And it may not actually hamper the Florida sports betting timeline all that much. At the same time, it could also be a prelude to another extended battle. 

Will West Flagler Associates be Able to Get Florida Sports Betting Repealed Again?

In 2021, after sports betting in The Sunshine State had been live for just a few weeks, West Flagler Associates successfully put the Seminole Tribe’s gaming compact in review. This forced them to halt all of their sports gambling operations.

Nearly two years later, this same gaming compact remains at issue. The Seminole Tribe debuted a mobile sports betting app that registered users could access from anywhere in the state. West Flagler Associates argued that this violated terms of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act from 1988, which states all gambling activity must take place on tribal lands. If states want to license tribal mobile sports betting apps or any of the best online sportsbooks in the United States, it typically requires a constitutional amendment. And that, in turn, demands a specific initiative be placed on a general election ballot for state residents to vote on.

For their part, the Seminole Tribe argued that their mobile betting app was an extension of tribal property. Therefore, they didn’t violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. 

A judge roughly two years ago clearly disagreed. Could the same thing happen again.

Experts don’t think so. Most analysts predict that West Flagler Associates will lose their rehearing. Not only that, but they expect a decision on the matter to be delivered before the end of September. This could free up the Seminole Tribe to relaunch Florida sports betting in just a few weeks, if not immediately. But should we actually expect them to go forward with a sports gambling rollout?

The Seminole Tribe May Wait Until the Sports Gambling Battle is Fully Litigated Before Relaunching Their Services

Although the Seminoles could attempt to relaunch sports betting operations in Florida, gaming attorney Daniel Wallach doesn’t expect them to consider doing so until this matter is fully resolved. Here’s what he told CBS 12’s Katie Bente: 

“There's no injunction in place stopping the Seminole Tribe, but it's also acting with respect to the court system and if they move forward with online sports betting during an ongoing federal challenge to that component, it could offend some members of the D.C. Circuit bench.”

This seemingly means the Seminoles won’t consider offering any sports betting until West Flagler Associates’ petition for rehearing is settled. That, on its own, is not a huge deal. If the court takes until the end of September but sticks with the current ruling, Florida could have sports gambling back before Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season. That would no doubt come as a relief to betting enthusiasts.

Still, there is no guarantee West Flagler Associates’ appeal ends up unsuccessful. It may not be the most likely outcome, but many didn’t think their initial 2021 lawsuit would gain much traction. 

Potential Supreme Court Input Looms Over Florida Sports Betting Litigation

If the petition for rehearing was the last possible step in this process, we’d have no problem predicting the return of sports betting in The Sunshine State by the end of September. But West Flagler Associates likely only filed their petition as a formality. They know their odds of success are long.

In all likelihood, they’re angling for a bigger-picture move: elevating this matter to the United States Supreme Court. That is the next step if this petition fails. And many experts, including Mr. Wallach, have gone on record saying they expect West Flagler Associates to push the issue as far as it can go.

If they go that direction, the same logic from before applies: The Seminole Tribe probably won’t relaunch their Florida sports betting operations until a ruling is declared. And unlike the petition for rehearing, a United States Supreme Court decision could take many months

Assuming SCOTUS agrees to hear the case—and many expect he will—a final verdict may not be rendered until the end of 2023. It might even take until the start of 2024, if not a little, longer, depending on what else makes the court’s docket. 

Does this mean sports gambling in Florida definitely will not return before next year? Absolutely not. It simply means this matter isn’t worth forecasting. Too many potential twists and turns remain. And we are all, clearly, just along for the ride.

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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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