Don't hold your breath for the legal sports betting in Florida issue to be sorted out anytime soon. Because it's not going to be. The appeals court has yet to hear the latest arguments being made by either side, and as a result, the Florida sports betting battle won't be resolved in 2022.
This was, in many ways, the expectation. When the appellate court didn't rush to set a date prior to the November elections, it was presumed they wouldn't attempt to render a verdict on the matter at any point in the near future.
Still, the news comes as a sobering reminder of just how far away Florida might be from the re-institution of sports betting. And it almost immediately follows another sobering reminder. The re-election of Florida governor Ron DeSantis already spelled bad news for the sports betting battle. This delay on a verdict is merely the latest bump in what has been a long, winding road that's rife with twists and turns and an uncertain end destination.
U.S. Court of Appeals Issues Timetable for Florida Sports Betting Ruling
Some were holding out hope that the Florida sports betting battle would be moved up the docket of the U.S. Court of Appeals. After all, the timeline for a verdict was never made official. But the current projections and U.S. Court of Appeals schedule basically ensure it is now official.
"Based on current projections, this case may take longer than expected," Jeff Ifrah of Ifrah Law recently wrote. "The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has issued a timetable projecting that the case cannot be resolved in 2022."
Granted, even if the U.S. Court of Appeals did wrap up this case before 2022, the matter was always unlikely to actually be resolved. Whichever party loses the verdict is expected to appeal yet again. Many industry experts still believe the Florida sports betting battle will eventually be elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court, a development that would delay the current timetable even further.
There doesn't appear to be any hope of a mutual resolution, either. This battle has pitted a handful of Florida tribes and retail sports betting companies against the Seminole Tribe and Florida government themselves. The tribes who brought this lawsuit that ultimately resulted in the Florida sports betting repeal last year have continuously argued that the Seminoles and the state violated constitutional law with their gaming compact.
For those who need a refresher: Governor Ron DeSantis helped broker a gaming compact with the Seminoles that awarded them exclusive gaming rights within the state. The agreement not only prevented online retail sportsbooks from entering the market, but it prohibited on tribes from offering their own forms of on-site sports betting.
Was Florida's Sports Betting Agreement with the Seminoles Actually Legal?
While this has been a popular question all along, it has mounted in importance over the past few months. Little by little, the authors of the lawsuit have focused almost solely on this argument rather than any ancillary justifications. Another lawsuit was even filed harping specifically on this point.
Here are some more details on the situation from a recent breakdown at LawAndCrime.com:
"To this point, the suit cited Florida Rep. Randy Fine’s controversial 'betting in your bathtub' comment, which he made while acting as the Head of the House Select Committee on Gaming. Fine stated that the Seminole Tribe would be allowed to offer sports betting 'where you can be sitting in your bathtub or sitting on your couch, thinking about a football game, and you can make a wager, regardless of where you physically are, on your cellphone.'
"Another lawsuit was also filed by developer Armando Codina and auto retailer Norman Brama, which claimed that the federal government ignored Florida’s constitution to permit illegal off-reservation sports betting. Before both lawsuits, mobile sports betting had been operational for about three weeks until the Seminole Tribe suspended operations mid-December amid the legal controversy."
Both the state of Florida and the Seminole tribe have pushed back on this logic by arguing that mobile betting options associated with the tribe must be considered an extension of tribal grounds. Other tribes, as well as retail sportsbooks, have not taken kindly to this position, which has been deemed "legal fiction" by the first of the two lawsuits. As you can see, there is a canyon separating the two sides. And neither has seemed willing to budge, which has only added to the delay.
When Will We Get a Verdict on the Florida Sports Betting Battle?
Technically speaking, a verdict on the Florida sports betting battle can come at any time. The U.S. Court of Appeals elevated the issue to "urgent" a few months ago, which means they can dive into the proceedings almost on a moment's notice. They even moved up the date on which both parties needed to file their court briefs.
And yet, the deliberations have yet to officially start. Once they do, a decision could take weeks, if not months. With the holidays right around the corner in the United States, there will also be longer stretches over which the U.S. Court of Appeals is closed or understaffed. At this point, it'll be a genuine surprise if any decision is made before February 2023.
Floridian sports bettors are bound to grow restless as a result. It has essentially been a year since the state revoked legal online and on-site sports betting. In the interim, they can travel to neighboring states that have legal sports betting or choose one of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks.
Having alternatives is nice. But a resolution to the Florida sports betting battle, one way or the other, would be nice. And right now, it doesn't look like the state is going to get one before 2023. Worse, when the verdict finally comes, the re-implementation of Florida legal sports betting will likely still be a ways off, and there's no guarantee it'll include any form of online gambling.
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that meets all of your sports betting needs: