September 23, 2023

Regulated Sports Betting In Florida Not Happening Anytime Soon


Despite myriad media reports to the contrary, the Seminole Tribe in Florida was not at liberty to launch its sports betting platform Monday. And the latest timeline set in motion by Friday’s filing by Miami-based parimutuel West Flagler and Associates likely means a legal launch is a minimum of three weeks away, but probably much, much longer.

According to the court rules, when West Flagler filed its “motion to stay mandate” Friday, a 10-day clock started for the U.S. Department of the Interior to respond. The DOI now has until Sept. 25 to file a reply. From there, West Flagler will have seven days to respond, or until Oct. 2.

At that point, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit would then consider the motion, though there is no specific timeline for the court to issue a decision. Should it approve the motion, the stay that is preventing the Seminole Tribe from legally launching its Hard Rock Bet platform could be in place for as long as 90 days — or until West Flagler files its writ of certiorari at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court traditionally takes months, if not years, to decide to accept a case, hear it, and rule.

All of this points to one thing: Don’t count on placing a legal bet in Florida this year … or maybe even next.

The current legal dance finds its roots in the court case filed by West Flagler and Associates more than two years ago — on Aug. 16, 2021 — that seeks to negate DOI Secretary Deb Haaland’s decision to allow a compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe. West Flagler attorneys are arguing that Haaland illegally approved the compact.

Launch wasn’t possible Monday

On Monday, Twitter was rife with posts from those watching the case and anxiously waiting for the appellate court to issue a decision on West Flagler’s latest motion or for the Seminoles to launch Hard Rock Bet.

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But due to the timeline, the court was never going to issue a decision Monday nor could the Seminoles have launched. Decisions, including this one, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit usually have a seven-day hold before the mandate becomes effective, and the court clerk confirmed for Sports Handle last week that the first possible date for launch would have been Tuesday. The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Sept. 11 declined West Flagler’s request for an en banc hearing after overturning a lower court ruling on June 30.

The Seminoles on Monday remained quiet, with a spokesman telling Sports Handle via email that there is “nothing new” on their end.

West Flagler requested to extend the mandate because it has plans to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. It has 90 days from the date the appellate court made its ruling to do so, which would be on or about Dec. 11. At that time, if a stay to keep the Seminoles from launching doesn’t already exist — or perhaps even if it does — West Flagler will most certainly include in its appeal a request to keep Hard Rock Bet offline.

Compact allows for a monopoly

The current compact would allow the Seminoles to have a monopoly on retail and digital sports betting in what would become the biggest legal sports betting state by population in the nation, but it has been under fire since lawmakers approved it during a special session in May 2021. While West Flagler, the plaintiff, has argued against the merits of the compact, its federal court case aims to show that Haaland was out of bounds in approving it.

West Flagler attorneys on Friday referred to the June 30 ruling as “unprecedented” and an “extreme shift in public policy on legalizing gaming.” They went on to argue that without a stay, “the Tribe shortly will effect a major expansion of gaming in Florida by releasing a mobile phone application that will permit online sports betting throughout the state.”

The Seminoles did launch an earlier version of the platform in late 2021, while the case was being considered by a federal district court. It was up for 34 days before the Seminoles took it down due to court orders.

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