This is a decision that can alter the balance of power and impact tribes and non-tribal gaming operators in virtually every state Hard Rock Bet could possibly launch its sportsbook in Florida as early as next week, but if past experience is any guide, the two brick-and-mortar gaming facilities that have kept the sportsbook offline for nearly two years will likely wait until the very last minute to exhaust their appeals in the case.
On Monday, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a request by West Flagler Associates and the Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation to rehear a long-running case that continues to hold up mobile sports betting in Florida.
By issuing an order rejecting an en banc rehearing on Monday, the court has set conditions for a launch of Hard Rock Bet as early as next Monday, September 18. That would be the day that a lower district court’s stay on relaunching Hard Rock Bet is reversed.
If the appellate court had agreed to rehear the case en banc, all 11 judges on the court would have reheard the case, likely causing a further delay for Hard Rock Bet to relaunch.
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Plaintiffs Could Appeal to the High Court
The plaintiffs still have some cards to play.
West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers could file an appeal to the US Supreme Court. Considering that the two parimutuels waited until the very last minute to file their en banc request in August, it seems likely that they would do the same for an appeal to the highest court in the land.
“The plaintiffs seem to be motivated,” gaming law attorney Jeff Ifrah told pokerfuse on Thursday. He added that under the current circumstances, “I do not know when Hard Rock might launch.”
Another gaming law attorney said he thinks the high court will take the case. Florida-based attorney Daniel Wallach reportedly told WKMG-TV in Orlando in June that the legal dispute “is of great importance to the gambling industry, not only in Florida.
“This is a decision that can alter the balance of power and impact tribes and non-tribal gaming operators in virtually every state, so it has the hallmarks of the type of case the US Supreme Court would consider reviewing.”
State Challenge Also Possible
Also, consider that the parimutuels could challenge the amended gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and the State of Florida in state court on the grounds that the compact allegedly “violates state law because state law requires [Florida] voters to decide the issue,” according to Ifrah.
The appellate court hinted at the same when it ruled in favor of the State of Florida and US Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland in June.
“Whether it is otherwise lawful for a patron to place bets from non-tribal land within Florida may be a question for that state’s courts, but it is not the subject of this litigation and not for us to decide,” the appellate court said in its ruling on June 30. That suggests more litigation is not only possible but likely.
The plaintiffs sued DOI in August 2021, alleging the agency and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by agreeing to an amended 30-year gaming compact. The parimutuels argued that by allowing wagers off of tribal lands (but not on other tribal lands), the compact equated to an illegal expansion of gaming under IGRA.
A district court judge agreed with the plaintiffs in November 2021, but the government won on appeal.
West Flagler owns the Magic City Casino & Flagler Dog Track, which is located in Miami. Meanwhile, Bonita-Myers owns the Bonita Springs Poker Room in the town of the same name.
The case is West Flagler Associates Limited et al. v. Debra Haaland et al. (No. 21-5265).