Wisconsin Sports Betting Could be Impacted by Florida Gambling Case

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jun 17, 2024 12:00 AM
Wisconsin sports betting is currently limited to select on-site tribal properties. Could Florida's gambling litigation change that?

Ever since Wisconsin sports betting launched in November 2021, operations have remained extremely limited. As of June 2024, only six tribal properties are licensed to offer wagering. What’s more, aside from adding more on-site locations, there don’t appear to be any plans to expand sports betting in Wisconsin.

Could the fate of Florida sports betting ultimately change that? Theoretically, yes, it could. And in a big way.

Allow us to explain.

The Unique Setup for Wisconsin Sports Betting

Let’s start with the legalization of Wisconsin sports betting. It wasn’t technically a legalization at all. That requires a constitutional amendment. And that, in turn, demands a bill put on a general election ballot for residents to vote on.

That didn’t happen in Wisconsin. Instead, they negotiated gaming compacts with select tribes. These operators are now allowed to offer Wisconsin sports betting on tribal lands.

It’s a similar situation with sports betting in Florida. A couple of years ago, governor Ron DeSantis brokered a gaming compact giving exclusive sports wagering rights to the Seminole Tribe. They are now allowed to offer sports betting across the state at any of their tribal properties. 

However, shortly after Florida sports betting launched in 2021, it was rolled back on the heels of a lawsuit. Wagering operations shut down for more than two years, before reopening in December 2023.

And yet, while sports gambling in Florida is back up and running, the case isn’t yet settled. The state and Seminole tribe are still waiting on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to determine whether they’ll hear the case initially filed by West Flagler Associates. It is this decision that could, in concept, have a massive impact on the state of Wisconsin sports betting.

A Quick Overview of the Main Issue in Florida

While the Florida sports betting case has included many twists and turns, the crux of the issue has never wavered. West Flagler Associates claims that the Seminole tribe violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act by launching a Florida online sports betting app that could be accessed throughout the state. 

The plaintiffs argue that, according to the Seminoles’ gaming compact, the tribe can only offer online Florida sports betting to customers located on-site at one of their casinos. The Seminoles, though, contest this stance. They believe that because their online Florida sports betting site is run by servers located on tribal land, the app in question is an extension of their tribal property.

As we already mentioned, a District Court judge originally sided with West Flagler Associates. But the Florida Supreme Court later ruled in favor of the Seminoles. That laid the groundwork for the return of Florida sports betting.

Both sides are now currently waiting to see how SCOTUS will interpret the argument. If they reject the case or simply rule in favor of the current setup, then the Seminole tribe sports betting app is free to continue allowing mobile applications to be processed off-site. But if SCOTUS winds up agreeing to take the case and siding with West Flagler Associates, then legal Florida sports betting could cease to exist. 

Here’s Why Wisconsin Should be Watching How the Florida Sports Betting Case Pans Out

In the event SCOTUS does not uphold the Florida sports betting gaming compact, it will have no impact on the current state of Wisconsin sports betting. But if they do uphold it (or pass on the case entirely), it opens the door to at least one tribe to offer Wisconsin online sports betting.

The tribe in question is the Oneida tribe. Consider this little tidbit from Legal Sports Report’s Bart Shirley: 

Because the Oneida tribe owns an additional casino property and more than a half-dozen truck stops around the Green Bay area, the tribe took the unusual step of offering a sports betting app. Based upon the language of the compact, the lands of those stores qualify as valid areas for online sports betting. Thus, besides the main casino area, you may place online sports bets at any of the Oneida One-Stops nearby.” 

Basically, the Oneida Tribe offers Wisconsin online sports betting so long as you’re on their property. But they could expand their services if they use the same logic championed by the Seminole tribe in Florida. Assuming the Oneida tribe sports betting app is run by servers on their own property, they can argue that their Wisconsin sports betting site is an extension of that property.

Should We Expect Wisconsin Sports Betting to Expand if the Seminole Tribe in Florida is Successful?

Indeed, if the Oneida tribe started offering mobile sports betting across the entire state, there would most certainly be push-back. Especially from other tribes in the state. But Florida could invariably give them a precedent on which to lean. 

Whether you think the Onedia tribe will or should go this route is debatable. The point is, it’s possible. 

Of course, when push comes to shove, we’d bet against the expansion of Oneida tribe online Wisconsin sports betting. It’s likely too controversial. They might also worry that broadening their reach will lend itself to lawmakers advocating for other online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the market. And to this point, tribes don’t seem interested in grappling with additional competition.

On top of that, while there is no timeline for online Wisconsin sports betting to be legalized, most tribal executives in the state believe its launch is inevitable. And if it’s going to happen down the line anyway, the Oneida tribe may be reluctant to rock the boat.

Still, you never know. At the very least, this is a topic worth revisiting one the Florida sports betting litigation between West Flagler Associates and the Seminole tribe finally reaches a concrete resolution.

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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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