The big thing right now is whether the court will accept the case and ask for further briefs from the government The Seminole Tribe is unlikely to launch its Hard Rock Bet sportsbook in Florida before the start of the NFL season after a pair of brick-and-mortar gaming facilities filed a last-minute appeal in federal court.
According to court records, West Flagler Associates and the Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation filed a petition for rehearing en banc in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Monday — the last day for the two parimutuels to do so.
Since an appeal was filed, a stay from launching Hard Rock Bet will remain in effect. The Seminole Tribe had been making preparations to launch Hard Rock Bet on August 21 — a little more than two weeks before the start of the NFL season, scheduled for September 7.
The rehearing petition is the latest development in a saga that has lasted more than two years.
West Flagler and Bonita-Myers sued US Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland in August 2021, alleging that the agency and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The parimutuels argued that an amended 30-year gaming compact between the state and the tribe equated to an illegal expansion of gaming under IGRA.
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What the Petition Means
It could be months until we have a decision, and this could delay the launch of Hard Rock Bet even further. By filing an en banc petition, the plaintiffs are asking that all 11 members of the circuit court rule on the matter.
What happens next is unclear. If the circuit court upholds the ruling by the three-judge panel or refuses to rehear the case altogether, the plaintiffs could file an appeal to the US Supreme Court. A refusal by the high court to take the case would likely clear the way for mobile sports betting in Florida to finally launch.
“The big thing right now is whether the court will accept the case and ask for further briefs from the government,” Jeff Ifrah of Ifrah Law PLLC told pokerfuse on Tuesday. “If the court does so, it could be months until we have a decision, and this could delay the launch of Hard Rock Bet even further.”
The Seminole Tribe rebranded its Hard Rock Sportsbook as Hard Rock Bet last month.
In a statement widely circulated in the media, Seminole Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner suggested that any en banc hearing will likely come up with the same result — a ruling in their favor.
“It’s important to note the three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a unanimous decision in favor of the US Department of the Interior, which approved the gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and the State of Florida,” Bitner said.
West Flagler owns the Magic City Casino & Flagler Dog Track, while Bonita-Myers owns the Bonita Springs Poker Room. The facilities are located in Miami and Bonita Springs, respectively. Florida poker has a huge scene, with dozens of card rooms and tables in tribal casinos, but the state does not have regulated online poker.
The case is West Flagler Associates Limited et al v. Debra Haaland et al (No. 21-5265).