West Flagler Unhappy as Sports Betting in Florida Goes Live
November 18, 2023
In late October, the U.S. Supreme Court denied West Flagler's request to stay a lower court's ruling that gave Florida's Seminole Tribe the exclusive right to provide retail and mobile sports betting access to residents. The Tribe reacted by opening mobile sports betting operations for the benefit of existing customers who registered in November 2021. That's the month that Seminole leadership felt there were safe to start processing legal sports bets as part of a new compact the Tribe signed with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
What the Seminoles did not anticipate in 2021 was aggressive opposition to the new compact. That opposition did come largely from Florida commercial gambling interests, led by West Flagler, that wanted in on the action. The opposition forced the Tribe to shut down its sports betting operations a scant 30 days after giving the green light.
Since December 2021, a battle has ensued with the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe on one side and West Flagler on the other. That battle has been waged in state courts, the U.S. District Court in D.C., and up to the SCOTUS. When the Supreme Court shot down the call for the aforementioned stay, the Seminole Tribe opened its new Hard Rock Bet sports betting platform to existing customers in quasi-beta mode.
Battle Won But War Not Over
Seminole leadership felt they had secured a huge win with the U.S. Supreme Court's stay decision. It was enough of a win to prompt them to start taking bets. At the same time, they knew the war was not yet over. They waited in anticipation of West Flagler going the distance by making one last attempt to shut down the Tribe's sports betting operation.
That last attempt came hours after Hard Rock Bet took its first bet. That's when West Flagler filed a new complaint with the Florida State Supreme Court. This new complaint was made in addition to a standing legal challenge that had already been filed with the high Florida Court earlier this year. In that challenge, West Flagler's lawyers claimed that the new compact involving Florida, the Seminoles, and the US Dept. of the Interior violates the state constitution.
With this additional filing, West Flager is using its legal standing to ask the Florida Supreme Court to issue a writ of quo warranto to the Seminole Tribe. Such a document, if validated by the Court, would compel Tribe officials to justify their actions to the Court. The term "actions" refers to the Tribe taking bets before the Florida Court has had a chance to rule on West Flagler's original filing.
Ultimately, West Flagler wants Florida voters to decide how sports betting will be administered. With so much revenue at stake, the company isn't likely to stop until all possible actions have been exhausted. It's a reasonable assumption that this latest writ of quo warranto filing is not the last card that West Flagler has up its sleeve in this interesting and exhausting ongoing battle.