West Flagler Stay Could Delay Florida Online Sports Betting Indefinitely

The “motion to stay mandate” filed in West Flagler’s Florida sports betting case means that a legal launch of Hard Rock Bet is, at best, three weeks out. In reality, the Seminole Tribe of Florida may need to wait much longer to launch sports betting in the state.

According to procedures, West Flagler’s filing started the clock on a 10-day window for response. The Department of the Interior (DOI) now has until Sept. 25 to reply in kind. Following that, West Flagler has until Oct. 2 for a final rebuttal.

From there, the motion moves to the US Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, for consideration. However, how long that decision will take is unknown.

Legal experts have predicted a stay is unlikely. If the case, Hard Rock Bet could, in theory, launch in Florida sometime in October. This is what the sportsbook originally told customers to expect. Some industry experts thought the relaunch might come sooner, but were considering only the timeline for the previous procedural step, namely West Flagler’s request for a rehearing.

The October relaunch date presumes that the DC court denies the request. Should the DC court favor West Flagler, however unlikely, the stay preventing Seminole’s sports betting launch would be in effect until Flagler files its writ of certiorari with SCOTUS.

That timeline would give West Flagler a maximum of 90 days from the date of rehearing denial to file, so the cutoff is approximately Dec. 11. It’s also possible the court could rule the stay remain in place until SCOTUS decides to hear the case.

West Flagler could also ask SCOTUS directly to grant a stay after filing its writ.

Traditionally, SCOTUS takes months, sometimes years, to accept and rule on a case. So, Florida sports betting will likely be in legal limbo for a while.

Update (09/28/23) — Motion Denied

As expected, the DC Circuit Court denied West Flagler’s motion on Sep. 28, 2023. West Flagler will now presumably ask the Supreme Court for an emergency injunction as part of its petition. In the meantime, Hard Rock Sportsbook is free to start taking bets, but will face a challenge on two fronts: the SCOTUS appeal and a new effort West Flagler has launched at the state level.

Florida Sports Betting Hangs on Supreme Court

In late 2021, West Flagler filed the lawsuit that kicked off the current legal back and forth on behalf of itself and Bonita Springs Poker Room (Bonita-Fort Myers Corp.).

At the time, West Flagler owned and operated Magic City Casino and Casino Miami. The family-run company also has a permit for a summer jai alai fronton and poker room in Edgewater, Miami.

Since filing, West Flagler sold Magic City to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. However, the company maintained its other gambling assets.

As the suit explained, the parimutuel gambling houses took issue with a 2021 Florida Sports betting compact that handed the Seminoles a Florida online sports betting monopoly.

Specifically, West Flagler argued that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland erred when permitting a compact including gaming on non-tribal lands.

In late 2021, a federal judge agreed with West Flager. However, in June 2023, the DC Circuit Court reversed that decision. West Flagler responded with its rehearing request, which the court later denied.

Next steps in the case depend on the outcome of West Flagler’s stay request. However, it’s certain Flagler plans to take the fight to the Supreme Court.

Whether SCOTUS decides to hear the case remains uncertain. But, it is looking less likely that Florida sports bettors will be wagering legally anytime soon.

About the Author

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil (she/they) is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor, and a lead writer at Bonus. Here she focuses on news relevant to online casinos, while specializing in responsible gambling coverage, legislative developments, gambling regulations, and industry-related legal fights.
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