West Flagler Associates Files Florida Sports Betting Brief to Supreme Court of the United States

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 7, 2024 08:00 PM
West Flagler Associates Files Florida Sports Betting Brief to Supreme Court of the United States

The fate of Florida sports betting is now officially in the hands of the Supreme Court of the United States.

West Flagler Associates, the plaintiffs attempting to overturn the Sunshine State’s sports gambling compact with the Seminole tribe, submitted a brief to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) last week. Among other things, the filing outlines why legal sports betting in Florida technically violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Its endgame: get Florida sports gambling repealed (again) and, ultimately, pave the way for other online sportsbooks in the USA to enter the market.

Experts still seem split on whether West Flagler Associates will be successful. Almost everyone agrees they have a valid case. Whether SCOTUS will actually hear it, let alone rule in their favor, has ranked among the biggest questions for basically a year. Certainly, SCOTUS’ potential view of the Florida sports betting legalization has remained front and center ever since the Seminole tribe relaunched their gambling services in December.

Forecasting the outcome of this litigation has largely proven to be a fool’s errand. West Flagler Associates succeeded in shutting down sports betting in the Sunshine State more than two years ago. But that ended up being a stopgap. And since then, the messaging from the Florida Supreme Court has suggested they will continue to uphold the Seminole tribe’s most gaming compact. Most recently, they denied a petition from West Flagler Associates to once again shudder Florida sports gambling operations

So what can we expect from the SCOTUS filing? Let’s talk about it.

West Flagler Associates Explains Their Reasoning for Filing Florida Sports Betting Petition

In the brief they filed to the Supreme Court of the United States, West Flagler Associates reiterated why they continue to push their issue with the current Florida sports betting compact:

“Because the Florida Supreme Court denied the writ of quo warranto and because there are currently no pending proceedings in Florida state courts regarding the legality of the Compact, there is no risk that the Petition will be mooted by proceedings in the Florida state courts. Thus, this case continues to be the proper vehicle to evaluate the federal questions presented.” 

Essentially, West Flagler Associates is trying to convince SCOTUS to hear their case in this briefing. And now that there isn’t any active litigation at the state level that could conflict with federal rulings, they’re clearly hoping that this will invite a full-on deliberation from SCOTUS.

Of course, West Flagler Associates is also (attempting) to rest on the merit of their stance. They argue that the Seminole tribe’s Florida online sports betting app violates the IGRA because it allows customers to submit wagers from anywhere inside the state. The gaming compact the Seminoles have with the Sunshine State clearly states all sports gambling must take place on tribal property. This argument was initially enough to get Florida sports betting services repealed towards the end of 2021.

However, the Seminole tribe has since argued that their Florida sports betting app is an extension of tribal property, because that’s where the servers running it are located. Hence the legal gray area. 

As of now, the Seminole tribe Florida sports betting app can still be accessed by customers without being on-location. And the most recent Florida Supreme Court decision is seen as another massive victory for the tribe.

Will SCOTUS Wind Up Hearing the Florida Sports Gambling Case?

Despite multiple rulings that have not upheld the Seminole tribe gaming compact, this matter is far from resolved. Everyone could change if SCOTUS decides to hear the case. 

Granted, it isn’t clear whether they will. And we won’t necessarily know for some time. The Department of the Interior (an extension of the Seminole tribe’s position) has until mid-April to respond to West Flagler Associates’ filing. Sometime after that, SCOTUS should announce what it intends to do. Many believe the Florida sports betting case will ultimately end up in their hands. But as Legal Sports Report’s Mike Mazzeo noted, the “Supreme Court hears only 70 to 80 cases annually, or fewer than 2 percent of the petitions it receives.”

Clearly, SCOTUS’ involvement is far from a given. It definitely helps that West Flagler Associates’ argument earned support a few years ago at the district-court level. But just as the Florida Supreme Court sided with the Seminoles’ interpretation of the gaming compact, SCOTUS could do the same.

What Happens If the Florida Sports Betting Case Gets Elevated to SCOTUS?

Let’s assume the Florida sports betting litigation between West Flagler Associates and the Department of the Interior is taken on by SCOTUS. What happens then? 

Well, for starters, nothing—not immediately anyway. If SCOTUS takes on the Florida sports betting case in 2024, a final verdiction isn’t expected until 2025. So, yet again, the future of Florida sports gambling may not be decided anytime soon.

More critical still, it isn’t totally clear what happens to Seminole tribe Florida sports betting if SCOTUS does take the case. Will they allow sports gambling to continue as currently constituted? Will they restrict the Seminole tribe sports betting app to on-site business only? Could they actually shut down Florida sports betting entirely until they make their final decision?

Everything and anything appears to be in play—which, as anyone who has followed this issue already knows, is par for the entire course.

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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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