Legal online sports betting has returned for some Floridians but it’s still an extremely tenuous situation. The circumstances became even more fraught when, on Tuesday, West Flagler Associates asked the Florida Supreme Court to halt that gambling activity.
Although that filing surprised no one, it speaks to West Flagler’s determination to exhaust all legal avenues to deny the Seminole Tribe of Florida exclusive control over legal sports wagering in the state. Those options are running thin.
Seminole Tribe resumes taking bets on Hard Rock Bet
Wednesday’s events were a fantastic encapsulation of the entire dispute over legal sports betting in Florida. After the Seminole Tribe resumed taking online wagers from some Floridians, West Flagler Associates made its latest filing with the Court within hours.
A statement from the Seminole Tribe calls the limited re-launch of Hard Rock Bet in Florida a testing phase. At this time, only people who used the app upon its first Florida stint in 2021, plus those who complete registration at a Seminole casino can place bets using the app.
West Flagler’s supplication to the Court characterized Wednesday’s decision by the Seminole Tribe quite differently.
Seminole Tribe moved without authority, West Flagler argues
West Flagler has a standing challenge to the legality of the gaming compact between Florida, the Seminole Tribe, and the US Dept. of the Interior before the Florida Supreme Court. This latest filing is part of that litigation.
In the brief, West Flagler asks the Court to issue a writ of quo warranto to the Seminole Tribe regarding its online sports betting activity in Florida. Such a document is a demand for the recipient to justify their actions to the Court.
Additionally, West Flagler argues that the Court has the authority to halt online sports betting until it considers the case on its merits. At the center of its argument against the compact is that it represents an unconstitutional expansion of gambling in Florida.
The argument continues to state that the only mechanism for expanding legal gambling in the state is a constitutional amendment. As the Florida constitution does not include permissions for online sports betting, the gambling on Hard Rock Bet is illegal, West Flagler says.
West Flagler also stated in its Wednesday brief that the resumption of online gambling represents an exigency the Court must address. For that reason, a decision on whether to halt online wagering could happen soon.
That won’t be the last legal opinion a court renders on this issue. It could be among the last, though.
Challenges remain regardless of Wednesday’s petition
The Florida Supreme Court’s reaction to Wednesday’s petition from West Flagler won’t be its final word in this matter. Regardless of whether it grants West Flagler’s wishes, it still has to address the larger case.
It’s difficult to tell how the Court may rule on the question of the constitutionality of the compact. What is clearer, though, is that such a decision is unlikely to come in 2023. In the meantime, there is another court almost 900 miles away with business on this issue.
West Flagler also has a lawsuit against US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland active in Washington, DC. West Flagler has asked the US Supreme Court to review the decision of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
In that action, the DC Court overturned the trial court’s decision voiding the compact. The US Supreme Court has already denied West Flagler a similar request for a stay. Doubts remain about whether the Court will grant cert (agree to review) to West Flagler’s appeal.
For the moment, the most urgent matter is how the high court in Tallahassee will respond to West Flagler’s latest ask. Floridians should be aware that their access to Hard Rock Bet is before the court.