Plaintiffs Throw Hail Mary to Stop Florida Sports Betting Plaintiffs Throw Hail Mary to Stop Florida Sports Betting
Key Takeaways
  • Brick-and-mortar gaming facilities oppose Hard Rock Bet’s launch of mobile sports betting in Florida.
  • They’ve appealed to a federal appellate court, aiming to delay the platform.
  • There is no guarantee that the court will grant a stay or that the US Supreme Court will take the case.
  • The appellate court previously ruled in favor of the Seminole Tribe.
  • A mandate is scheduled for September 18; a last-minute stay could impact the launch.

The two brick-and-mortar gaming facilities opposed to the launch of Hard Rock Bet for mobile sports betting in Florida have asked a federal appellate court to keep the platform on ice while it appeals to the US Supreme Court.

Speaking to pokerfuse, gaming industry experts believe that there is no guarantee that the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will grant a stay to West Flagler Associates and the Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation. There is also no assurance that the high court would take the case.

Last Monday, the appellate court rejected a request by the parimutuels to rehear their long-running case en banc, meaning all 11 judges on the bench would hear the case and render a decision on whether mobile sports betting should move forward in the Sunshine State.

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Mandate Scheduled for Monday

When the appellate court ruled in favor of the Seminole Tribe, the State of Florida, and US Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland last week, that kicked off a week-long waiting period for a district court ruling to continue to stand. The US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in November 2021, keeping Hard Rock Bet sidelined.

The appellate court’s mandate is scheduled to be issued on Monday, September 18. If a last-minute stay is denied, that means Hard Rock Bet would then be allowed to conduct mobile sports betting — just as it did for three weeks in November 2021, before the legal challenges were filed.

Not everyone agrees that Hard Rock Bet will relaunch soon.

Shepard Broad College of Law Professor Bob Jarvis told for a story last week that the Seminoles were unlikely to open Hard Rock Bet for business, so long as there is uncertainty in federal (and state) court.

“There would be no upside to the Seminoles starting and then having to stop their operations and lots of downsides,” Jarvis told the online news outlet. “This could go fast or take a year or two depending on how far up the appeals ladder the state case goes.”

West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers have few options left to keep Hard Rock Bet from launching.

They 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 violated state law by expanding gaming without permission from Florida voters.

The appellate court hinted that the parimutuels could make that very argument in state court after ruling in favor of the Seminoles, the State of Florida, and Haaland in June.

Reasons Plaintiffs Requested Stay

In arguing for a stay, the parimutuels said there are three good reasons for the appellate court to grant one.

Naturally, the plaintiffs called the appellate court’s ruling “a significant change in public policy,” especially as it pertains to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which the parimutuels allege DOI and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis violated by agreeing to an amended 30-year gaming compact.

The parimutuels argue that by allowing wagers off of tribal lands (but not on other tribal lands), the compact equates to an illegal expansion of gaming under IGRA.

As for the other two reasons — the plaintiffs argue that Bonita-Fort Myers would suffer irreparable harm by allowing mobile sports betting to proceed. Meanwhile, they also argue that the Seminole Tribe “has no standing to claim harm from the stay sought by appellees.”

The case is West Flagler Associates Limited et al. v. Debra Haaland et al. (No. 21-5265).