The second federal phase of West Flagler Associates’ attempt to prevent the re-launch of legal sports betting in Florida got a win on Thursday. Or at least a tie.
The Florida pari-mutuel outlet had asked the United States Supreme Court on Oct. 6 to prevent the Seminole Tribe of Florida from resuming the taking of mobile and online sports bets through its Hard Rock BET app. West Flagler asked for the stay, it said in its filing, to prepare an official plea to the Supreme Court, called a writ of certiorari, to settle a matter that has dragged on since 2021.
On Thursday, Chief Justice John Roberts granted the stay request on a temporary basis. The US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit had ruled in June that the Seminoles were legally able to resume sports betting activity in Florida. The Department of the Interior, which regulates tribal gambling compacts and is the target of West Flagler’s litigation, has until Oct. 18 to respond. The Court will make a final ruling on the stay thereafter.
NEWS: Chief Justice John Roberts agreed to temporarily pause a DC Circuit ruling allowing a Florida tribe to operate online sports betting. The pause will stay in place until the court takes further action. A response is due by next Wednesday. @CourthouseNews pic.twitter.com/YMyqOPL7Fs
— Kelsey Reichmann (@KelseyReichmann) October 12, 2023
What’s West Flagler Associates’ Argument?
The new West Flagler request closely mimics an overture to the Florida Supreme Court last week and cites many of the same claims. Chief among them is that a three-judge panel from the US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, erred in its interpretation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. On June 30, that panel reversed a string of West Flagler court victories against the Department of the Interior and more broadly interpreted the scope of the pre-Internet law.
Read More: West Flagler Associates’ SCOTUS filing
From the filing:
“The Circuit Opinion enables a dramatic change in public policy on legalizing gaming that, once started, may be difficult to stop. It is in the public interest to preserve the status quo with respect to online gaming until such time as this Court as a chance to review Applicants’ petition for a writ of certiorari.”
West Flagler also claimed to the Florida Supreme Court that Gov. Ron DeSantis and the State Legislature overstepped their purviews in negotiating the 30-year compact with the Seminole Tribe. This is partly because of a 2018 constitutional amendment that requires voter approval to expand gambling in the state. The state is required to answer West Flagler’s claims by Nov. 1.
What’s the Florida sports betting timeline now?
Technically, the Seminoles could have re-launched as soon as the US Court of Appeals denied a final stay request on Sept. 28. However, the Hard Rock BET app displayed “outside service area” for Florida users before and is bound by Roberts” order to do so for at least another six days. Most observers believe the Seminoles were content to wait, having weighed the optics of being ordered to shut down a second time by court order, as was the case after 33 days of business in early December 2021.
This marathon case could still be in a sprint phase, with mobile sports betting in Florida live again within weeks. Or the long slog, as in late 2024, at best, could still be afoot.
- An eventual denial of the stay could be seen as a signal that the Court will not take up the case and could trigger an immediate relaunch.
- West Flagler has promised the court a writ of certiorari by Nov. 20. It wasn’t officially due until Dec. 10.
- The Department of the Interior would have 30 days to respond.
- West Flagler would have 14 days to reply to the response.