Gov. Ron DeSantis Seeks Extension in Florida Sports Betting Challenge

Posted on: October 19, 2023, 04:11h. 

Last updated on: October 20, 2023, 12:27h.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is asking the Florida Supreme Court for more time to reply in a case seeking to overturn the sports betting monopoly granted to the Seminole Tribe.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in New Hampshire on June 1, 2023. DeSantis is asking the state’s highest court for more time to defend his decision to give the Seminole Tribe exclusive access to sports betting in Florida.

In a motion filed Thursday, attorneys for the governor and state legislative leaders say they need until December 1 to craft a response to the gambling companies who initiated the proceeding. Led by pari-mutuel operator West Flagler Associates, the companies are asking the Florida Supreme Court to invalidate the tribal gaming compact signed by the governor in 2021. The compact allows the tribe to operate sportsbooks at its casinos and take mobile sports bets from anyone in the state, so long as the computer servers accepting the wagers are on tribal land.

The request from the governor comes three days after a local anti-gambling group, No Casinos Inc., filed its own brief in support of the West Flagler petition. DeSantis’ attorneys point out that No Casinos received a 10-day extension to file its amicus brief and that the court previously said that the government may seek an extension as well.

Full Schedule

“Due to the press of other matters, counsel does indeed require additional time to complete the response in this case and for client review,” reads the submission from the Florida Attorney General’s office.

The brief lists 16 pending cases in state and federal court where filings from the state are due within the next two weeks.

Given that the challenged compact initially went into effect in 2021, and West Flagler only brought its case to state court last month, an additional delay should not hamper the proceedings, the state’s attorneys argued. West Flagler only agreed to a seven-day extension, according to the motion.

The court will decide in the coming days whether to grant the motion.

Betting Remains On Hold

Whatever happens in the state case, legal sports betting in Florida will remain on hold pending the outcome of a federal legal case.

West Flagler has been fighting the gaming compact in federal court since its enactment, and the case has now made its way to the US Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts this month stayed a lower court ruling that would have allowed the compact to take effect in order to give the high court time to consider whether to take the case.

Feds Say State Court Should Decide

The Interior Department, which oversees tribal gaming and is the plaintiff in the federal suit, this week filed its first response in the Supreme Court docket.

The department is responsible for reviewing gaming compacts such as the one between the Seminoles and Florida to ensure they comply with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

If the department takes no action on submitted gaming compacts within 45 days, they are deemed approved. That’s what happened in 2021 when Florida submitted its updated agreement with the tribe. West Flagler and its allies say Interior has a responsibility to deny the compact because it allows tribes to accept online bets placed anywhere in the state, not just on tribal land.

Interior said its responsibilities only stretch as far as gaming that does happen on tribal land, and that the off-reservation sports betting envisioned by the compact falls outside of its purview. Essentially, those activities were separately authorized by the actions of the governor and state legislature that are now at issue in the state supreme court proceeding.

The Interior Department said West Flagler’s federal case “lacks merit” and is unlikely to succeed and that critics of the tribe’s sports betting arrangement are better off taking their case to state courts.

“If the Florida Supreme Court concludes that the Florida Legislature’s authorization of the placement of wagers outside Indian lands is not permissible under the Florida Constitution, that would afford applicants the relief they seek,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote on behalf of the Interior Department. “That pending case provides the appropriate forum to resolve applicants’ claims based on the meaning of state law.”