A Florida sports betting resumption became a possibility today, albeit a potentially risky move the Seminole Tribe of Florida isn’t ready to make.
West Flagler Associates’ request for a stay on the relaunch of legal wagering in the state — put to the US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit — was denied on Thursday. This opens the possibility that the Seminole Tribe of Florida could immediately begin taking retail and mobile sports wagers through its Hard Rock Bet brand.
The problem: this week, West Flagler also petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to prevent a relaunch, and that court could also issue a stay as it waits for the State of Florida to respond.
Seminole Tribe spokesperson Gary Bitner told Gaming Today: “It’s another positive development, but it will have no immediate effect on the Seminole Tribe’s plans.”
West Flagler’s legal team asserted in court documents last week that it wished to prevent sports betting from resuming in Florida as it prepared to petition the Supreme Court to take up its case. That petition must be made by Dec. 10.
Documents filed at 10:04 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15, made it clear that West Flagler believed the Seminole Tribe could resume state-wide wagering on Sept. 18 after an en banc hearing request by West Flagler was denied on Sept. 11. On June 30, a three-judge panel from the DC Circuit reversed a series of federal court victories for the Florida pari-mutuel opertors, overturning Judge Dabney Friedrich’s voiding of a 30-year gambling compact between the Seminoles and the state of Florida in 2021.
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From the West Flagler request, whose team is led by Hamish Hume:
West Flagler: Parimutuels Will Be ‘Irreparably Harmed’
Sports betting in Florida lasted just more than a month on the first try, before being shut down on Dec. 4, 2021, per Friedrich’s order. Friedrich had agreed that allowing the Seminoles to offer mobile state-wide sports betting off tribal lands was beyond the limits of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The three-judge panel, however, backed the Department of the Interior assertion that IGRA — made law before the Internet revolution — should be allowed to morph with modern technology and opportunity.
West Flagler continued to hammer at what it sees as incongruity in the last ruling, however, and attempted to underscore the impact of the Seminoles’ in-state rivals for gambling dollars. Parimutuels are allowed to become marketing partners with Hard Rock in offering sports betting but would keep just 60% of profits after expenditures.
Added West Flagler in the Friday filing:
“[West Flagler and the owners of the Bonita Springs Poker Room] also will be irreparably harmed by issuance of the mandate. Bonita operates brick and mortar gaming operations in Florida and competes with the Tribe for customers. Bonita further submitted evidence that at a minimum, 10% to 16% of its customers will shift some of their existing business to online sports gaming that can be offered only by the Tribe, and that it will incur substantially increased expenditures, suffer lost goodwill and suffer additional damages that it likely could not recover from the Tribe due to sovereign immunity issues.
Nor is there any harm to [the Department of the Interior and by proxy, the Seminoles] from a stay: The Secretary [of the Interior, Debra Haaland] has never argued that it will suffer harm from the continued vacatur of its approval. The Tribe, although it is an Appellant by virtue of its appeal regarding its motion to intervene, was not successful in its arguments either before the District Court, or this Court, and therefore cannot claim harm here. Moreover, the Tribe has no right to conduct unlawful gaming and can suffer no harm from the inability to engage in unlawful conduct.”