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FL Supreme Court Won’t Immediately Hear Challenge To Sports Betting Compact Amendment

Written By Derek Helling on March 22, 2024
exterior of florida supreme court

It might only be a matter of time before the Florida Supreme Court considers a challenge to the amended gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida that currently enables legal sports betting in the state. However, it won’t do so right away.

The highest court in the state has denied a request from the plaintiffs in the lawsuit to consider their complaint in a way that circumvents the normal appeal process. The ball is now back in the plaintiffs’ court as to whether the challenge to the compact continues.

Florida Supreme Court denies petition for writ of quo warranto

In a nod to Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” West Flagler Associates tried to make its case go straight to Tallahassee and the Supreme Court said, no, no, no. The history leading up to a March 21 decision from the Florida Supreme Court goes back years.

The state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida agreed to an amended compact in 2021. In addition to expanding table games at physical Seminole casinos in the state, the compact also gave the Tribe exclusive control of legal sports betting within Florida’s borders.

After the US Dept. of the Interior approved the compact amendment as well, West Flagler Associates became the lead plaintiff in a challenge to that decision on the federal level. It lost that case upon appeal but a further appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States is ongoing.

After the Washington, DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against West Flagler and its allies, those parties filed a challenge to the compact amendment with the Florida Supreme Court. The document asked the court for a writ of quo warranto.

In simple language, that means the court would have demanded the state and the Seminole Tribe prove the legitimacy of their activity within the confines of the law. The complaint from West Flagler argued that the compact violated the Florida Constitution in that any expansion of gaming in the state must follow a voter referendum.

An effect of the Florida Supreme Court granting the writ of quo warranto would have been that West Flagler’s challenge would have been heard by the court with immediate effect as opposed to West Flagler needing to file its case in a lower court and then appeal to the Florida Supreme Court if it received an unfavorable ruling. In essence, it was a shortcut to a final decision.

That won’t be the case now as the Florida Supreme Court has denied that petition. Now, West Flagler and its partners have a decision to make.

West Flagler Associates has to decide whether to commit again

West Flagler can still file a challenge to the gaming compact in a state circuit court in Florida. And Florida attorney Daniel Wallach suggested the same thing on Twitter:

Doing so would represent a commitment to potentially years of litigation and thousands of billable hours for attorneys. The real issue for West Flagler is the framework of the gaming compact amendment for sports betting.

That setup does allow entities like West Flagler to offer in-person sports wagering to patrons. However, they must do so on the terms of the Seminole Tribe.

It’s questionable at what point the cost of continuing litigation outweighs whatever revenue West Flagler thinks it would be giving up by meeting the Seminole Tribe’s asking price to offer sports wagering. At the same time, the relationship there might be too strained for those parties to ever collaborate.

Additionally, the people behind the challenge might stand behind the principle regardless of the cost. The answer to these questions should surface soon. In the meantime, online sports wagering via the Hard Rock Bet app continues in Florida.

Bettors should just note that while their access to gambling is viable for now, legal challenges to the activity are still available. Should West Flagler file a challenge at the state level, that may not be the case for years yet.

Photo by AP Photo/Brendan Farrington
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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