West Flagler Brief Sets Stage for SCOTUS Decision on Florida Sports Betting

The United States Supreme Court’s decision on whether to intervene in the marathon Florida sports betting litigation grew closer last Monday when the parimutuel outlets trying to shut it down, like West Flagler Associates, filed their reply brief to the Department of the Interior.

John Holden, an associate professor at Oklahoma State and a tribal gaming expert, described the filing as “pretty much what you would expect from a reply brief.”

“I didn’t notice anything that jumped out at me like ‘Oh, that’s new,'” Holden told Gaming Today. “I think the Government’s opposition brief hit what I expected them to hit on, and the reply brief here did much the same, arguing that there are issues that merit the Supreme Court taking the case.

“While I think the odds of the Supreme Court granting cert are very long, the Equal Protection question raised previously by Justice Kavanaugh now becomes the focal point of the case for many court watchers.”

Florida Sports Betting Timeline

West Flagler Associates filed a writ of certiorari with the court in February asking it to stop the sports betting operation underway in Florida under the auspices of the Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock Bet brand. As part of the 30-year deal originally agreed upon in 2021, Hard Rock gained the right to offer mobile sports betting off tribal lands in what was a ground-breaking new application of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

A series of court victories for West Flagler stopped Hard Rock’s operation after a month. Sports betting resumed in Florida in December. The Seminoles also gained the right to offer craps and roulette in the agreement.

West Flagler’s summation:

West Flagler’s original and successful attempt to scuttle the compact focused on the legality of the so-called “hub-and-spoke” mobile model being deployed in Florida. Its petition to the US Supreme Court has shifted to interpretations of the Equal Protection Clause after Kavanaugh mentioned it could be applicable after the court denied a stay request.

Explained Holden:

“The Equal Protection issue is one that a lot of people who are watching this case are really focused on because Justice Kavanaugh brought it back when there was an effort to keep online sports betting offline while the case played out. While the Court denied the stay, Justice Kavanaugh attached a statement where he essentially said, ‘We aren’t granting what you are asking for here, but oh, by the way, there are some Equal Protection questions that might be worth looking at here.’

“The Equal Protection Clause is found in the Fourteenth Amendment. It is designed to prevent the government from favoring one group over another without a justification that allows differential treatment.”

West Flagler attorneys contend that the approval of the compact favored a tribal entity illegally in relation to whether the compact legalized the accepting of bets off tribal lands.

Legal observers have weighed in on both sides of whether the Supreme Court should take up or reject the West Flagler case. But most see its chances as slim as very few writs are accepted each year.

About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Lead Writer
Brant James is a lead writer who covers the sports betting industry and legislation at Gaming Today. An alum of the Tampa Bay Times, ESPN.com, espnW, SI.com, and USA Today, he's covered motorsports and the NHL as beats. He also once made a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and rode to the top of Mt. Washington with Travis Pastrana. John Tortorella has yelled at him numerous times.

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