West Flagler Petitions Florida Supreme Court In Sports Betting Feud

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on September 26, 2023
Seminole Tribe Of Florida Dancer Competes

West Flagler is serious in its intentions to stop the Seminole Tribe of Florida from launching sports betting through its agreement with Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The poker room operator has just filed a state constitutional challenge in the Florida Supreme Court that could invalidate the 2021 Florida Gaming Compact between the tribe and the state if approved.

Earlier this month, a Court of Appeals restored the Seminole gaming compact. The Department of Interior (DOI) called the request by West Flagler to prevent the Seminole Tribe of Florida from re-launching sports betting in the state “not warranted.”

West Flagler sued the DOI for allowing the Seminoles’ 30-year gambling compact to pass into law in 2021.

The Florida sports betting battle has been ongoing since November 2021, and now the filing of the constitutional challenge may push the relaunch of sports betting in the state even further.

West Flagler implies people must approve of any new gambling in Florida

Raquel A. Rodriguez of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC is the counsel representing West Flagler in this Florida Supreme Court petition.

In the petition, Rodriguez wrote that the approved 2021 gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe violates Amendment 3 of the Florida Constitution.

As emphasized in the petition, neither the governor nor the legislature can expand gambling in the state:

“Under the Florida Constitution, the People must approve any new casino gambling in the state through the citizens’ initiative process — the off-reservation sports betting provisions of the 2021 Compact and the off-reservation portions of the Implementing Law violate Article X, Section 30 of the Florida Constitution. Neither the Governor nor the Legislature can expand gambling in Florida in derogation of the People’s constitutional final say.”

The petition states that Gov. DeSantis “exceeded his authority by entering into a compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida granting the Tribe the exclusive right to offer off-reservation online and in-person sports betting throughout the entire state and by signing legislation ratifying the 2021 Compact and making such wagers legal statewide.”

Florida sports betting remains in limbo

While the court in the Sunshine State is deciding on the petition, Florida sports betting is still up in the air.

The DOI opposed a requested motion for a stay of a mandate to restore a Florida Gaming Compact from 2021. West Flagler has time to respond until Oct. 2, but the Court can rule before that.

West Flagler filed for a stay of the Florida sports betting case mandate on Sept. 15, aiming to take the issue to the Supreme Court.

It remains uncertain, however, when the Seminole Tribe could re-launch online sports betting in the state via the Hard Rock Bet app.

As reported by the LSR, Rachel Heron, an attorney representing DOI, wrote:

“A stay is not warranted, because any such petition could present no substantial question for Supreme Court review. This Court reached a narrow, case-specific holding about the meaning of particular language in one particular Compact under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Its decision makes explicitly clear that the Compact does not purport to and as a matter of law, could not authorize the gaming activities outside Indian land that West Flagler believes are illegal, and that West Flagler’s dispute is instead with the Florida law that does authorize these activities.”

Photo by Rebecca Blackwell / AP Photo
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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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