It has been almost two years since the Seminole Tribe accepted its last sports wager, and despite a landmark court victory in June, it may take another two years before sports betting resumes in Florida — if at all.
The U.S. Department of the Interior is expected to respond by Thursday (August 31) to a request from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. for a response to an en banc appeal.
An en banc appeal would require all of the court’s 11 active judges to review a 3-0 decision against South Florida commercial gaming operator West Flagler Associates on June 30, which would restore a landmark 2021 tribal gaming compact and allow the Seminoles to resume mobile sports betting via servers located on reservation lands.
The June 30 ruling upheld the right of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to effectuate the 2021 gambling compact between the Seminoles and Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis without expressly approving the agreement.
Melissa Schwartz, the Interior Department’s director of communications, declined to comment on Tuesday (August 29) when asked if the department will respond to the court’s request for a comment on the en banc appeal.
The court’s request for a response from the Interior Department means at least one of the court’s 11 judges would like to review the June 30 decision.
Upon receiving the Interior Department’s response, one of the judges must request a vote on whether to go forward with an en banc hearing.
The next and final step before scheduling an en banc hearing would require a vote from a majority (or six of 11) of the court’s judges.
“Assuming that the three … judges (who made the June 30 ruling) are going to stand by their decision — which seems highly likely — that means West Flagler Associates would have to win over six of the remaining judges or 75 percent,” said Bob Jarvis, a gaming law professor at Shepard Broad College of Law in Davie, Florida.
“Those are long odds for sure,” Jarvis said.
An experienced Washington, D.C. attorney, who requested anonymity, said the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is more likely than other circuits to seek responses in en banc cases.
“But that doesn’t mean the D.C. court is more likely to grant en banc hearings,” the attorney said.
If West Flagler Associates is denied an en banc hearing or is granted an en banc hearing and loses again, the company would still have 90 days to appeal their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Moreover, the June 30 decision leaves the door open for West Flagler Associates to pursue legal action in state courts in Florida to extend the prohibition of sports betting in Florida.
No Casinos, an anti-gambling group in Florida which joined West Flagler Associates in the case decided on June 30, has made the decision not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but appears poised to pursue legal action in Florida’s state courts if the Seminoles resume sports betting.
Seminole Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner did not respond on Tuesday to a request for comment.