In a recent ruling, a Washington, D.C.-based appellate court upheld a 30-year deal that grants the Seminole Tribe of Florida control over sports betting in the state. However, despite this positive development for the tribe, gamblers in Florida shouldn’t get their hopes up about placing sports bets from their phones anytime soon. Legal challenges are still ongoing in both state and federal courts, leaving the future of mobile sports betting uncertain.
Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the Seminole Tribe, stated that while the appellate court ruling is encouraging, it will not have an immediate impact on the tribe’s plans. The ruling now sets the stage for a potential review by the U.S. Supreme Court, as two pari-mutuel companies challenge the 2021 agreement.
The companies, West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., have also asked the Florida Supreme Court to strike down the sports-betting part of the deal. At the heart of the issue is a “hub-and-spoke” plan that would allow gamblers to place mobile sports wagers anywhere in the state, with bets handled by computer servers on tribal property. The companies argue that this violates the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The legal battle has been ongoing since U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled against the compact in November 2021. However, a panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed the ruling, and the full appeals court recently refused to reconsider the challenge.
While all of this unfolds, it remains unclear whether the Seminoles will relaunch their sports-betting app before the litigation is resolved. The tribe briefly rolled out the Hard Rock SportsBook mobile app in 2021 but stopped accepting wagers and deposits after Friedrich’s ruling.
Separate from the federal-court fight, the pari-mutuel companies and owner Isadore Havenick have filed a lawsuit directly with the Florida Supreme Court, arguing that the sports-betting component of the deal violates a 2018 constitutional amendment. This amendment prohibits expansions of casino-style gambling without statewide voter approval.
In exchange for the sports-betting rights, the Seminole Tribe has agreed to pay the state a minimum of $2.5 billion over the first five years and potentially billions more throughout the three-decade pact. The deal also allows the tribe to offer craps and roulette at its casinos and add three casinos on tribal property in Broward County.
In other gambling news, state regulators in Florida have recently cracked down on fantasy sports companies. Three operators have been accused of offering potentially illegal mobile betting games, and warnings have been issued to cease operations immediately. The alleged conduct is considered criminal activity and strictly prohibited in Florida.
As the legal battles continue and regulators crack down on certain gambling activities, the future of sports betting in Florida remains uncertain. Gamblers will have to wait patiently to see how these legal challenges play out in court.