Florida Sports Betting: Court Denies Redo, Clearing Way To Resume Wagers

Posted on: September 11, 2023, 05:15h. 

Last updated on: September 12, 2023, 07:52h.

A federal appeals court today declined to rehear a case challenging a sports betting plan in Florida, effectively clearing the way for wagering to resume in the Sunshine State.

federal appeals court Seminole Tribe Florida sports betting
A sports bettor downloads the Hard Rock Sportsbook app following Florida’s April 2021 agreement to allow the Seminole Tribe to operate online sports betting. A federal appeals on Monday declined to rehear a legal challenge to the arrangement. (Image: WFTV)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit on Monday said it would not reopen a case seeking to overturn a tribal gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. The agreement, signed in 2021 by Gov. Ron Desantis (R), gives the Seminole Tribe a monopoly on retail and online sports betting in the state.

Barring a long-shot intervention by the Supreme Court, the stage is now set for the Seminole Tribe to begin operating its Hard Rock Bet sportsbook online and at its half-dozen casinos around the state.

Hard Rock Back From the Dead?

The Tribe could not immediately be reached for comment. But Hard Rock Bets appeared to welcome the news by posting a .gif of WWE’s The Undertaker rising from a coffin soon after the judges issued their decision Monday.

The decision is the culmination of nearly two years of legal challenges led by West Flagler Associates, which operates the Bonita Springs Poker Room in South Florida.

West Flagler sued the Interior Department, which has jurisdiction over tribal gaming through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The company argued that the new gaming compact violates the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act’s prohibition on off-reservation betting and the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

A district court judge agreed with West Flagler and nullified the compact in 2021. But that decision was overturned on appeal in June of this year by a three-judge panel on the DC Circuit.

In August, West Flagler filed a petition for an “en banc” rehearing by all 11 judges on the circuit. The judges denied that petition Monday with a brief per curium order.

West Flagler was founded in Miami in the early 1950s as a partnership controlled by the prominent Havenick Family, and it currently operates the Bonita Springs Poker Room in South Florida. Last year, West Flagler sold Magic City Casino, which offers poker and slots, to Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians for $600 million.

Demand Appears High

Legal sports wagering was available in Florida for just three weeks in 2021 before being shut down. The state is one of the largest where sports betting is not currently available, alongside major holdouts like California and Texas.

Potential bettors in the state seem eager to get back online.

Don’t play with me, man. I need my gambling back in Florida,” one user wrote in response to Hard Rock Bets’ Undertaker post.

Another user was more blunt: “Open up to Florida for Monday night football, you cowards,” they wrote.