U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halts $2.5 billion Florida-Seminole tribe gambling deal

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a temporary stay on a lower court’s ruling, which had previously given the green light to a $2.5 billion gambling agreement between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Chief Justice John Roberts, responsible for emergency requests from the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., released the administrative stay, pending further consideration by the full court regarding a request for a long-term stay made by Florida casino operators’ legal representatives last week, Politico reported.

This temporary stay does not indicate the Supreme Court’s final ruling on the matter but suggests that the Tribe will not be resuming sports betting anytime soon in the third-most populous state in the United States.

In his order, Chief Justice Roberts has granted lawyers representing the Department of Interior until October 18 to respond to the request for the extended stay. Lawyers for the owners of the Magic City Casino in Miami and the Bonita Springs Poker Room are seeking this temporary halt as they ask the Supreme Court to review the legal dispute, the report said.

A federal appeals court had previously ruled in June that a lower court judge had improperly blocked the gambling deal and asserted that any disputes regarding the compact between Florida and the Tribe should be resolved in state court. In September, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied a request for a rehearing on the matter.

The gambling deal between Florida and the Seminole Tribe was ratified by the GOP-led Legislature in May 2021 and subsequently signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis. As per the report, the compact not only authorized sports betting but also permitted the Tribe to introduce craps and roulette in its existing casinos and construct new casinos on the Tribe’s Hollywood reservation, which already houses the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Following the deal’s approval, the Seminoles began offering sports betting through a mobile app.

However, in late 2021, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, situated in the District of Columbia, declared the agreement illegal, citing that it allowed individuals to place sports bets anywhere in the state, thus violating federal laws governing gambling on Native American lands. The lawsuit was filed against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland because her agency did not block the compact.

Judge Friedrich also stipulated that the only permitted sports betting outside of tribal lands in Florida was through a citizen initiative. In 2018, voters endorsed an amendment supported by the Seminole Tribe and Disney, which mandated that future expansions of casino gambling be subject to voter approval.

Following the ruling, the Seminoles ceased using the mobile betting app but have not taken steps to reinstate it, even after the appeals court rejected Friedrich’s rationale, the report said. As a result, sports betting has remained on hold in Florida during the 2023 NFL and college football season, a time typically characterized by heavy betting activities.