Seminole Tribe to Introduce Sports Betting in December, Mobile Sportsbooks Still Uncertain

Posted on: November 1, 2023, 10:43h. 

Last updated on: November 1, 2023, 01:04h.

Floridians will be able to place legal sports bets next month at tribal casinos in the state. But the status of mobile sportsbooks remains up in the air.

Hard Rock
The Hard Rock Casino sign at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. The Seminole Tribe announced its casinos in Florida will begin offering sports betting, craps, and roulette next month. (Image: Seminole Hard Rock Tampa/Facebook)

The Seminole Tribe on Wednesday announced that it would begin taking sports bets, as well as offering craps and roulette, at its six Florida casinos starting December 7. The new games are provided under a revised gaming compact between the tribe and the state that was agreed to in 2021 but which has been held up in litigation since then.

The announcement comes after the Supreme Court last week solidified the tribe’s right to offer the new games on its own land.

“The Seminole Tribe thanks the State of Florida, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Department of Justice for defending our Compact. By working together, the Tribe, the State, and the federal government achieved a historic legal victory,” said Marcellus Osceola Jr., chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, in a press release.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who signed the compact two years ago, praised the announcement, saying the new games would “create jobs, increase tourism, and provide billions in added revenue” to Florida.

Mobile Sportsbook Remains In Limbo

The announcement made no mention of plans to open a mobile sportsbook in Florida, and the tribe didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the Supreme Court’s decision ended a years-long federal lawsuit, it left the question of whether the tribe can accept mobile sports bets placed anywhere else in the state. The compact DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe agreed to in 2021 authorized the tribe to operate online sportsbooks accessible anywhere within the state, so long as the servers themselves were located on tribal land.

The federal case was narrowly focused on the role of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gaming. Interior said its approval of the compact only went as far as authorizing activity that actually took place on tribal lands and that anything else was outside of its purview.

State Decision

That appears to leave the decision in the hands of state courts, where opponents of the tribe’s sports betting monopoly, led by pari-mutuel operator West Flagler Associates, are still pressing their case. West Flagler and its allies say that the Florida Constitution prohibits anyone, including the tribe, from operating an online sportsbook without first putting the question to the state’s voters, and they are asking the Florida Supreme Court to effectively overrule the governor and state legislature.

DeSantis’ office has requested an extension to file in the case, and the court has extended the response deadline to December 1.

Last week, West Flagler filed a new notice in the state case, citing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s reasoning in dismissing the federal case as additional evidence for their state claim.

“If the compact authorized the Tribe to conduct off-reservation gaming operations, either directly or by deeming off-reservation gaming operations to somehow be on-reservation, then the compact would likely violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, as the District Court explained,” Kavanaugh wrote in the excerpt cited with emphasis by West Flagler.

Six Casinos to Host Craps, Roulette, Sportsbooks

The rollout of retail sports betting will begin December 7 at three Seminole casinos in South Florida: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood, and Seminole Casino Coconut Creek.

The following day, the new games will be available at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. On December 11, they will launch at Seminole Casino Immokalee near Naples and Seminole Brighton Casino on the northwest side of Lake Okeechobee.

Hard Rock says the new games will create 1,000 new jobs in the state.