One tweet from gaming attorney Jeff Ifrah on June 30 rekindled hope among Florida sports betting advocates. Smaller picture, a court decision he mentioned could mean one legal option, Hard Rock Sportsbook, may soon be available in the third-most-populous state by the start of the NFL season. Bigger picture, the opinion from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in favor of the Seminole Tribe could impact tribal gaming compacts in ways that can be used to legalize sportsbooks in other states.
Ifrah, the founding and managing partner of District of Columbia-based Ifrah Law, tweeted at 11:09 a.m. today:
Breaking news. Florida #sportsbetting alert! Today, the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of the Seminole Tribe completely reversing the District Court. This is a huge victory for Hard Rock and the first to favorably resolve a post-PASPA challenge under IGRA. More analysis to come!
PASPA is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which the US Supreme Court overturned in 2018. After that date, states began legalizing retail and online sports betting.
IGRA is the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which regulates state compacts with tribes.
However, sports betting is still illegal for Florida’s 23 million residents. It’s not included in the state constitution.
Voters may not have to decide the matter, though.
Soon, Florida sports betting may be legal due to the decision favoring the federally recognized tribe. On LinkedIn, Ifrah posted that Hard Rock Sportsbook may be able to launch in Florida by the start of the NFL season.
The first NFL game is on Sept. 7. That’s 69 days from today, the Hard Rock Sportsbook Twitter account pointed out today.
Meanwhile, below his 11:09 a.m. tweet that had 326,500 views by 7:30 p.m., Ifrah wrote:
The D.C. Circuit leaves open the possibility of a Florida based state court challenge, but absent that or a successful appeal to #SCOTUS, Florida #sportsbetting could be a reality soon.
Hard Rock Already Offers Online Casino and Sports Betting
If the Hard Rock name already sounds like an online gambling brand, that’s because it is.
The Hard Rock apps aren’t live in the home state of the Seminole Tribe, but they’re already available elsewhere in the US.
Hard Rock Casino is live in New Jersey.
Hard Rock Sportsbook exists in seven states:
- New Jersey
Florida Sports Betting May Return
Florida sports betting launched in Spring 2021, before opponents filed a lawsuit in the fall that stopped the tribal monopoly by December.
In November 2021, Judge Dabney Langhorne Friedrich ruled against the West Flagler Associates vs. Haaland defendant. (The case technically lists a poker room owner as suing US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, whose inactivity related to the Florida-Seminole compact allowed it to go into effect. However, there are far more parties involved.)
The US District Court for the District of Columbia judge opined that the Seminole Tribe only had the right to offer Hard Rock Sportsbook on tribal land. The state compact had justified statewide online sports betting because the sportsbook servers were on tribal land.
After today’s appeals court ruling overturning Friedrich’s decision, the tribe is already considering its options.
Abbey Block, an associate attorney at Ifrah Law, wrote the firm’s blog post about the decision today.
Although the Court emphasized that its holding was intended to be narrow, the implications of its decision are undeniable. The Court’s interpretation of IGRA and the Compact itself will have a meaningful impact on the availability of sports betting in Florida. Indeed, perhaps other states will take note and utilize similar language in their own Class III gaming compacts.