A Florida sports betting relaunch could happen next week.
The United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit on Monday denied West Flagler Associates‘ request for an en banc appeal of their unfavorable ruling against the Department of the Interior in June, in effect ending the process in that court. By a previous order of the clerk of the court, the matter was to be deemed closed, and the ruling of a three-judge appeals panel was final seven days after the last action of the Appeals Court.
That would be Sept. 19, in time for Week 3 of the lucrative NFL betting season.
Said Hamish Hume, counsel for West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. and a partner with Boies Schiller Flexner on the rehearing denial:
“We are weighing all options, including a possible petition seeking the Supreme Court’s review.”
Whether Hard Rock Bet – operated and predominantly owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida – begins taking wagers that day is unclear. When asked for a reaction to the ruling and next steps for the Seminole Tribe, spokesperson Gary Bitner told Gaming Today: “The Seminole Tribe of Florida is pleased with today’s denial of the request for an en banc hearing by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”
Legal Sports Betting in Florida Allowable, Says Federal Court
On June 30, a three-judge panel reversed a lower court ruling in the lawsuit filed by West Flagler Associates and another parimutuel outlet, Bonita Springs Poker Room, which had nullified the 30-year compact the Seminole Tribe of Florida had signed with the state government in 2021. That agreement allowed the Seminoles through their Hard Rock Digital company to add retail sports betting in Florida, craps, and roulette to their menu at six casinos.
It also allowed for mobile sports betting state-wide, a paradigm-shifting interpretation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which West Flagler successfully blocked by suing the Department of the Interior. That is until the three-judge panel saw differently.
On Aug. 14, West Flagler asked for an en banc hearing in front of a majority of judges on the DC panel, a move that is rarely granted. In appealing, West Flagler’s legal team asserted the reversal opinion “is erroneous and will create confusion and thus rehearing is warranted.”
The DOI was ordered to respond by today, which it did, allowing the court to end the matter on its docket by denying the en banc request. In its response to the West Flagler request, the DOI document noted “The burden to demonstrate that this Court should rehear an appeal en banc is a heavy one, granted “only in the rarest of circumstances. … This case does not present that rare circumstance.
“West Flagler’s petition asserts that the case presents questions of exceptional importance because the panel opinion allegedly gives the Secretary power to authorize a State regime for gaming outside Indian land that West Flagler believes violates the Florida constitution and equal-protection principles.”
West Flagler has exhausted its route in federal court but still could petition the Supreme Court to take up the case or begin again in Florida courts, where many legal observers believe the case belongs.
Will Hard Rock Bets Launch in Florida in a Week?
The Seminole Tribe already had to shutter its Florida operation once, after a run from Nov. 1-Dec. 4, 2021 was ordered halted by US District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich. Some observers think a relaunch could be risky for public perception and confidence given that legal action in Florida or at the Supreme Court could force another stoppage. West Flagler has 90 days to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Within a half-hour of the ruling, however, Hard Rock Bet sent some followers into a tizzy with this cryptic X.
— Hard Rock Bet (@HardRockBet) September 11, 2023