Florida Anti-Gambling Faction Won’t Pursue Supreme Court Appeal

August 3, 2023
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A Florida coalition opposed to the gambling compact between the Seminole Tribe and Republican Governor Ron DeSantis will not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, after a Washington, D.C. appeals court ruled the Seminole Tribe can resume online sports betting.

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A Florida coalition opposed to the gambling compact between the Seminole Tribe and Republican Governor Ron DeSantis will not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, after a Washington, D.C. appeals court ruled the Seminole Tribe can resume online sports betting.

“Our clients will not seek review of the decision which made clear that approval of the compact cannot be construed as an approval for the expansion of gambling in Florida on non-tribal lands in violation of federal law,” Miami attorney Eugene Stearns told VIXIO GamblingCompliance in an email on Thursday (August 3).

Stearns, who represented No Casinos and various Florida business officials during oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, said the Florida Constitution prohibits any expansion of gambling on non-tribal lands without compliance with strict referendum requirements.

“That prohibition remains,” Stearns said.

Legal matters related to the Florida Constitution's gambling prohibitions would generally be a matter for state courts to consider.

It is still unclear if West Flagler Associates, a Florida pari-mutuel group which also opposed the compact in the D.C. appeals court, will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appellate ruling.

Hamish Hume, the Washington, D.C. attorney who represented West Flagler during oral arguments in the Seminole case, did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

On June 30, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously agreed to uphold the Florida gambling compact, after it was struck down by a lower court on November 22, 2021.

The big question is whether the Seminole Tribe will resume accepting wagers on games by August 26 when the college football season opens.

From November 1, 2021 to December 4, 2021, the Seminoles accepted online wagers before a U.S. District Court judge ordered the tribe to stop taking bets.

Asked this week when the tribe will begin taking bets again, Seminole spokesman Gary Bitner said: “No new information to share.”

Bob Jarvis, a gaming law professor at Shepard Broad College of Law, said he thinks the Seminoles will “be ready to go on August 22, the day after the D.C. Circuit’s mandate becomes final.”

Danny Sheridan, a veteran oddsmaker in Mobile, Alabama, said he would be “shocked’’ if the Seminoles are not taking bets before the opening of the new college football season.

“Florida would be a cash cow, and online betting doesn’t have anything close to the expenses of a brick and mortar sportsbook,” Sheridan said.

Florida is among the "big three" states still being coveted by the rapid expansion of the U.S. sports-betting industry.

The other two are California and Texas.

“I think the vast number of stakeholders likely to throw down in California makes sports betting as challenging there as anywhere but Utah,” said John Holden, an associate professor in the department of management at Oklahoma State University.

Texas could be an even harder nut to crack because of its conservative politics.

But like Florida, there are only a handful of gaming tribes in Texas who would be involved in negotiations on sports betting.

“It would be a fascinating development if the way that Texas ended up with sports betting is through a tribal compact,” Holden said.

Holden added, however, he has not heard anything about a potential tribal deal on sports betting in Texas “or that there was anything more than hopes and dreams around some future effort for commercial betting at this point.”

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