The prospective return of Florida sports betting is no more. And like usual, no one quite knows when it might be rolled out, if it’s even relaunched at all.
As with all developments related to sports betting in Florida, this latest delay is being driven by additional litigation. And while there is a potential timeline for the court in charge to deliver a decision, industry experts inside and outside of The Sunshine State are officially expecting this saga to drag on much longer than the most immediate possibilities.
How far away are we from the relaunch of Florida sports betting? What’s behind the most recent delay? Are the roadblocks facing this matter the same as ever or have they changed?
Not all of these questions have definitive or even half-clear answers. But let’s do our best to unpack the fallout from the latest Florida sports betting delay.
The Future of Florida Sports Betting Remains in the Hands of the Appeals Court…for Now
This next phase of sports gambling litigation will unfold in one of the Appeals Courts circuit. This is to say, the matter has yet to transition into a different chamber.
After months and months of deliberation by an Appeals Court, a ruling was made earlier this summer to uphold the Seminole Tribe’s exclusive gaming compact with the state of Florida. In response, the plaintiffs of this case, casino operators known as West Flagler Associates, filed a petition for a rehearing. On Monday, September 11, the United States Appeals Court yet again ruled in favor of the previous Florida sports betting agreement between the Seminoles and The Sunshine State.
At this point, many wondered whether the Seminoles would relaunch their sports gambling services. Most weren’t too optimistic. They expected the tribe to wait until West Flagler Associates decided whether they’d pursue involvement from the United States Supreme Court. As it turns out, though, these impressions were too far ahead of the game. According to Jill R. Dorson of Sports Handle, West Flagler Associates have filed another motion that must be deliberated inside the Appeals Court:
Despite myriad media reports to the contrary, the Seminole Tribe in Florida was not at liberty to launch its sports betting platform Monday. And the latest timeline set in motion by Friday’s filing by Miami-based parimutuel West Flagler and Associates likely means a legal launch is a minimum of three weeks away, but probably much, much longer. According to the court rules, when West Flagler filed its ‘motion to stay mandate’ Friday, a 10-day clock started for the U.S. Department of the Interior to respond. The DOI now has until Sept. 25 to file a reply. From there, West Flagler will have seven days to respond, or until Oct. 2. At that point, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit would then consider the motion, though there is no specific timeline for the court to issue a decision. Should it approve the motion, the stay that is preventing the Seminole Tribe from legally launching its Hard Rock Bet platform could be in place for as long as 90 days — or until West Flagler files its writ of certiorari at the Supreme Court.”
This latest maneuver does not bode well for a potential Florida sports betting timeline. Though West Flagler Associates and the Department of the Interior have specific and imminent windows in which they must respond, the Appeals Court can take as much time as they deem necessary to settle on a ruling.
What is a Realistic Timeline for the Return of Sports Gambling in Florida?
Fortunately for sports betting enthusiasts, the Appeals has already twice ruled in favor of the Seminole Tribe and the Department of the Interior. Most experts expect this latest development to culminate in the same resolution. The bigger question: Will West Flagler Associates seek to elevate this matter to the Supreme Court?
Insiders almost universally agree the issue is headed down that path. Not only has West Flagler Associates so far explored every option available to them, but more than a handful of attorneys specializing in gambling laws have said on record they believe the plaintiffs have a legitimate case. If West Flagler Associates believes the Supreme Court will accept their case, then they will almost certainly look to file the required writ of certiorari.
This is where the timeline for a Florida sports betting relaunch gets fuzzy. Strike that, this is where it gets impossible to predict. As noted by a bunch of outlets in recent weeks, the Supreme Court typically takes months—and sometimes years—to hear entire cases and deliver their ruling. So, even on the most optimistic timeline, Florida sports betting seems unlikely to return before the start of 2024. What’s more, while legal minds have been cagey on making predictions, more and more analysts think Florida sports gambling will remain in gridlock until 2025.
Mind you, these timelines all presume sports betting in The Sunshine State can actually return. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of West Flagler Associates, Florida essentially goes back to square one. And from there, it’s not simply a matter of reworking the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe to include other casino operators. The state will have massive pushes from online sportsbooks in the United States with which to contend.
But, once more, this is getting too far ahead of the game. If we’ve learned anything about this (extended) Florida sports betting battle, it’s that we must wait for resolutions one step at a time. Right now, that means allowing the Appeals Court to deliver its third round of rulings. For the time being, a years-long delay isn’t worth predicting—even if, at times, it’s starting to feel like the most likely outcome.
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