Oral Arguments Scheduled In Landmark Florida Online Sports-Betting Case

October 25, 2022
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On December 14, a panel of three judges in Washington, D.C. will preside over a hearing to determine whether Florida should be allowed to resume online sports betting, and their decision is likely to have historic ramifications for both the tribal and commercial gaming industries.

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On December 14, a panel of three judges in Washington, D.C. will preside over a hearing to determine whether Florida should be allowed to resume online sports betting, and their decision is likely to have historic ramifications for both the tribal and commercial gaming industries.

A ruling by the panel is expected by June 2023, but the case may well be on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing a federal judge’s decision on November 22 ordering the Seminole Tribe of Florida to cease sports-betting operations, which began on November 1.

In her decision, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled the gambling compact negotiated last year by the Seminoles and Republican Governor Ron DeSantis violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by allowing bets to be placed outside tribal lands.

“If the [U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit] upholds Judge Friedrich’s decision, the Seminoles and every other tribe will have lost the chance to have mobile sports betting,” said Bob Jarvis, a professor of gaming law at Shepard Broad College of Law in Davie, Florida.

On the other hand, a ruling in favor of the appeal could modernize IGRA, which remains virtually unchanged since Congress passed it 34 years ago.

An updated IGRA would “allow tribes to compete against commercial entities on a level playing field while maintaining the sovereignty protections and economic development functions that IGRA intended to protect,” said John Holden, an assistant professor of business at Oklahoma State University.

To guarantee at least some access to the online betting market, tribes in Arizona and Michigan already have agreed to limits on sovereign protections in IGRA, Holden said.

The U.S. Department of the Interior, which is being represented in the appeal by the Justice Department, approved the Seminole compact in August 2021.

The approval led to a lawsuit later that month by West Flagler Associates, a Miami pari-mutuel company which operates Magic City Casino.

Friedrich ruled in favor of West Flagler Associates, leading to the appeal which will be considered on December 14.

No matter what the three-judge panel decides on the appeal, Holden predicted there will be another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If Friedrich’s opinion is reversed, Jarvis said the Seminoles will expand “into full mobile betting.”

“This will take another round of negotiations with the state of Florida, but I think there’s a good chance the state eventually will give in,” Jarvis said.

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