Supreme Court Delays Florida Sports Betting Relaunch — West Flagler Case Update

Florida sports betting won’t relaunch in October as expected because the US Supreme Court has temporarily granted West Flagler Associates’ request for a stay. West Flagler has been fighting against the Florida gaming compact that gave the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to sports betting. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Tribe, which has been preparing to resume taking bets through its Hard Rock SportsbookHowever, the Supreme Court has pressed pause on that ruling.

That means that would-be Florida sports bettors must continue waiting as they have been doing for nearly two years. Hard Rock operated for just over a month in Florida. It launched on Nov. 1, 2021, before shutting down again on Dec. 4 after a preliminary win by West Flagler in District Court.

The DC Circuit overturned the District Court’s ruling, saying that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland had not erred in allowing the compact to take effect. However, West Flagler has made several attempts to prevent the Seminoles from getting their sportsbook up and running again. Its requests to the DC Circuit for a rehearing or a stay were both denied.

The Supreme Court hasn’t yet decided whether it will hear the case. The stay is just a temporary one while it waits for a response from the Department of the Interior and for West Flagler to file its appeal.

Now, West Flagler is fighting a battle on two fronts. While waiting for its federal Supreme Court appeal, it has petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for a writ of quo warranto, questioning whether Gov. Ron DeSantis had the authority to sign such a compact.

What’s Next for the West Flagler Case?

Supreme Court Justice John Roberts penned the order, staying the DC Circuit Court’s decision until further notice.

In it, Roberts gave the federal government until Wednesday, Oct. 18, to respond to the stay request. So, the order will remain in effect for at least a week, but quite possibly longer. In principle, it could remain in effect until the Supreme Court issues a final ruling on the case, ending any chance of Florida sports betting resuming this year.

Meanwhile, West Flagler’s request for the stay includes a commitment to file its Supreme Court petition within 45 days. Since it filed its request on Oct. 6, it has given itself a deadline of Nov. 20, 2023, to file its appeal.

What Questions Will SCOTUS Consider?

It remains to be seen if the Supreme Court will take the case. However, West Flagler argues that the case concerns “a question of nationwide importance,” worthy of the attention of the highest court in the nation.

Although West Flagler hasn’t submitted its appeal yet, the stay request contains a sneak preview of the questions it intends to put before the court:

  1. Does IGRA authorize the Secretary of the Interior to approve (or allow automatic approval of) a compact between a State and an Indian Tribe that provides for the Indian Tribe to offer Internet sports gambling throughout the State and thus off Indian lands?
  2. Is UIGEA violated by an IGRA compact that provides for a Tribe to offer online sports betting to persons located off the Tribe’s lands, in the territory of a State whose constitution prohibits such sports betting unless it is conducted on Tribal lands pursuant to a valid IGRA compact?
  3. Does it violate the Equal Protection Clause for the Secretary of the Interior to approve (or allow automatic approval of) a compact between a State and an Indian Tribe that provides the Tribe with a statewide monopoly for offering Internet sports gambling, while making such conduct a felony if engaged in by any person who is not a member of that Indian Tribe?

About the Author

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon is an online gambling industry analyst with nearly ten years of experience. He currently serves as Casino News Managing Editor for Bonus.com, part of the Catena Media Network. Other gambling news sites he has contributed to include PlayUSA and Online Poker Report, and his writing has been cited in The Atlantic.
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