Florida State Capitol building in Tallahassee, FL, USA. Battle for Florida Sports Betting Heats Up in Court. Florida State Capitol building in Tallahassee, FL, USA. Battle for Florida Sports Betting Heats Up in Court.
Key Takeaways
  • Legal disputes over Florida sports betting continue, casting doubt on Hard Rock Bet’s future.
  • Anti-gaming group criticizes the gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe.
  • Cases involve parimutuels opposing the launch of Hard Rock Bet.
  • No Casinos Incorporated calls the gaming compact “transparently false.”
  • Seminole Tribe awaits instructions from the US Supreme Court.

Legal arguments over the future of Florida sports betting continued to play out in two courtrooms on Monday, with an anti-gaming group blasting an amended gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe “disrespectful” in Florida court and the tribe telling the US Supreme Court that it doesn’t plan to weigh in on the fight there — but will if the high court asks.

The developments at the high court and in the Florida Supreme Court continue to cloud the future of Hard Rock Bet, the online sportsbook developed by the Seminoles. Experts remain divided over whether sports betting is just days from launching or if it could be a lot longer — perhaps years.

Both cases were filed by two parimutuels opposed to the launch of Hard Rock Bet, West Flagler Associates, and the Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation. The plaintiffs filed a complaint in state court on September 26 and were granted a surprising stay by the US Supreme Court last Thursday — they first filed suit in federal court in August 2021.

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A 'Legal Fiction’ in Florida

Allowing mobile sports betting throughout the state, based on a legal fiction that tribal servers render the entire state to be Indian land for mobile gambling purposes, undermines this state’s public policy On October 6, the Florida Supreme Court gave No Casinos Incorporated, a non-profit that has successfully led efforts to keep commercial casinos out of Florida since 1978, more time to file an amicus brief in the state case.

The non-profit did not disappoint.

In a 33-page brief the organization filed on Monday, No Casinos derided the amended gaming compact between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe as “so transparently false and outcome driven that it is disrespectful to the Florida Constitution…and disrespectful to the voters who spoke unequivocally in favor of Amendment 3 in 2018.”

No Casinos helped win passage of Amendment 3 in 2018. It empowers Florida voters by giving them the final say in any gaming expansion. It is now codified as Article X, Section 30 of the Florida Constitution.

“Allowing mobile sports betting throughout the state, based on a legal fiction that tribal servers render the entire state to be Indian land for mobile gambling purposes, undermines this state’s public policy, as expressed in Article X, Section 30, Florida Constitution, to disallow such gambling in Florida absent approval by citizen initiative,” the group argues.

The case before the Florida Supreme Court is West Flagler Associates Limited et al. v. Ron DeSantis et al. (No. SC2023-1333).

Tribe 'Would Gladly File a Response’

Meanwhile, attorneys for the Seminole Tribe informed the US Supreme Court on Monday that the tribe isn’t planning on filing an amicus brief in the case that was brought there.

That is unless the high court wants them to.

The tribe argues that a filing isn’t necessary since it isn’t a party being sued by the plaintiffs — rather, the parimutuels have the US Department of Interior (DOI) and its secretary, Deb Haaland, in their sights. They also pointed out that a federal district and appellate court denied their motions to intervene.

“For these reasons, the Tribe does not intend to file a response to the stay application,” attorneys for the tribe said in a two-page letter sent to US Supreme Court Clerk Scott Harris on Monday.

“However, the tribe would gladly file a response should the court desire one from the tribe.”

The US Supreme Court case is West Flagler Associates Limited et al. v. Debra Haaland et al. (No. 23A315).