- US Supreme Court grants stay to parimutuels opposing the launch of Hard Rock Bet and mobile sports betting in Florida.
- West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers requested the stay pending a writ of certiorari.
- The stay is granted until further notice by Chief Justice John Roberts.
- Parimutuels raise three key questions related to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and sports betting.
- They argue that allowing mobile sports betting without a stay would violate state and federal laws.
This is quite unusual, for sure. The US Supreme Court has granted a stay to two parimutuels opposed to the launch of Hard Rock Bet and sports betting in Florida.
West Flagler Associates and the Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation asked the high court to issue the stay last Friday, according to court records with the high court and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. They requested the stay pending a writ of certiorari, with the parimutuels committing themselves to filing their case within 45 days or by November 20.
“Upon consideration of the application of counsel for the applicants, it is ordered that the mandate of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is hereby recalled and stayed pending further order of the undersigned or of the court,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in an order on Thursday.
Jeff Ifrah of Ifrah Law PLLC told pokerfuse that “it’s hard to know” what happens next. “And it doesn’t mean they will take the case, of course. But this is quite unusual, for sure.”
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Three Questions Outlined for High Court
The plaintiffs have posed three questions to the high court:
- Does the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act authorize the Secretary of the US Department of Interior (DOI) to approve a tribal gaming compact that allows sports betting throughout the state — including off of tribal lands?
- Would such a compact violate the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act?
- By allowing a tribal operator a monopoly on sports betting, is the DOI secretary violating the Equal Protection Clause?
They also said they would suffer irreparable harm if mobile sports betting were allowed to proceed.
Arguing for a stay, the plaintiffs said that without one, the amended gaming compact between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe “will give rise to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of sports betting transactions that violate both state and federal law before this court has the opportunity to address the merits.
It is in the public interest to preserve the status quo with respect to online gaming until such time as this court has a chance to review applicants’ petition for a writ of certiorari. “The [DC] circuit opinion enables a dramatic change in public policy on legalized gaming that, once started, may be difficult to stop. It is in the public interest to preserve the status quo with respect to online gaming until such time as this court has a chance to review applicants’ petition for a writ of certiorari.”
Two hours before the high court granted the stay, Ifrah said he doubted the high court would want to hear the case in its entirety.
“It is unfortunately very difficult to obtain Supreme Court review of any case. It seems unlikely to me that this case will be reviewed. I am also not convinced that the Court will view the DC Circuit opinion as being in conflict with other circuit courts of appeal, and that could doom the case right there.”
Plaintiffs Out of Options in Federal Court
The plaintiffs have likely exhausted their options in federal court with the filing. State court is another matter.
West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers sued DOI in August 2021, arguing that the amended gaming amounted to illegal gaming expansion under the IGRA. The Seminole Tribe took Hard Rock Sportsbook down in November of that year after a district court judge sided with the plaintiffs.
DOI won on appeal in June 2023. The appellate court in DC refused to rehear the case and denied a stay while the plaintiffs appealed to the US Supreme Court.
Ironically, on the same day that DOI quipped in federal court that the plaintiffs should have filed their lawsuit in state court instead, the plaintiffs did that very thing.
Specifically, the plaintiffs asked the Florida Supreme Court to weigh in on whether the amended gaming compact is constitutional since the idea of expanding iGaming in the state is subject to a successful ballot initiative.
West Flagler Associates owns and operates the Magic City Casino & Flagler Dog Track in Miami. Meanwhile, the Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation owns and operates the Bonita Springs Poker Room in the town of the same name.