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Florida Sports Bettors Will Have to Wait

September 21, 2023

It looks like the Florida sports betting saga is going to continue for now. It was just last week that the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that they would not agree to rehear the case between West Flagler vs. Haaland. The request for the rehearing came on the heels of the same court ruling that a lower court had made an erroneous decision regarding a new compact agreement between the Seminole Indian Tribe and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

The Original Ruling

The entire issue in question started a couple of years ago when Gov. DeSantis entered into a new Indian compact with the Seminole Indian Tribe. The new compact included language that would give the Seminoles the exclusive rights to offer Florida residents retail and online sports betting access. Almost immediately, the Tribe began accepting sports wagers through its Hard Rock Cafe retail casino and a proposed proprietary online mobile app called Hard Rock Bet.

While the signing of the new compact was popular with Florida residents who had been waiting a lifetime to wager on sports from within the state, it wasn't a popular decision with other commercial gambling interests. There were other interests that wanted a piece of the Florida sports betting pie, a pie that has always been considered substantial.

Leading the fight was and is a company called West Flagler. West Flagler is involved in the Florida gambling community through several different business interests, including Flagler Dog Track. Company management filed a complaint with a lower Florida federal court, claiming that the new compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

The lower court sided with West Flagler, and the Seminoles had to immediately stop taking sports wagers after one (1) month of activity.

DC Appeals Court Reverses Lower Court's Decision

The premise of this dispute lies in IGRA language that states Indian tribes are entitled to offer gambling access as long as that access takes place on Indian land. West Flagler has been arguing that while online sports betting activities would be handled through servers on Seminole land, most of the wagers would come from areas not in the Tribe's control.

After looking at the lower court's decision, a three-judge panel with the DC Court of Appeals ruled the original ruling misinterpreted IGRA. With the DC Court's new ruling, it was assumed the Seminoles could move forward and start accepting both retail and mobile sports bets.

West Flagler Counters

Given what's at stake, West Flagler is not ready to give up this fight. They reacted to the Appeals Court's ruling by asking for a rehearing in front of the full nine-judge panel. The request was denied. West Flagler responded to the denial by filing a motion to "stay" the Appeals Court's ruling in order for West Flagler to have more time to consider its options.

Late last week, a delay on the stay ruling was granted with an effective date of September 15, 2023. That gives the DC Court of Appeals up to September 25, 2023, to make a decision on the stay. Between now and then, the Seminoles will have to hold off on accepting sports bets.


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