Florida Supreme Court declines immediate halt to Seminole Tribe’s online sports betting amidst legal clash

The Florida Supreme Court has issued a decision, declining to halt the Seminole Tribe’s online sports betting platform, Hard Rock Bet, amidst an extended legal battle. 

West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. sought an immediate suspension of the sports betting provisions contained in a law related to a 2021 gambling deal between the state and the tribe. This ruling marks a pivotal point in the ongoing legal dispute.

Governor Ron DeSantis inked a compact with the Seminole Tribe in 2021, granting the tribe rights to introduce craps and roulette in their Florida casinos. 

Additionally, the agreement allowed for the establishment of three new casinos on tribal lands in Broward County. In return, the tribe committed to paying the state a minimum of $2.5 billion over the initial five years, with the potential for billions more over the compact’s lifespan.

However, the focal point of contention revolves around a 2018 constitutional amendment necessitating voter approval for casino gambling expansions. The crux of the legal dispute raised by West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. asserts that the sports betting segment of the gambling compact violates this constitutional requirement.

The legal standoff escalated after the Seminole Tribe reinitiated its sports betting app on November 7th. This re-launch prompted swift action from the pari-mutuel companies, who petitioned the court to suspend the statewide expansion of sports wagering.

“This exigency has been created by the launch of the Seminole Tribe’s mobile betting application on November 7, 2023, without prior warning,” attorneys representing the companies articulated in a 15-page motion.

At the heart of the dispute lies the provision in the agreement permitting individuals to place mobile sports bets anywhere in Florida, facilitated by computer servers positioned on tribal property. Critics argue that this allowance violates the 2018 constitutional amendment, mandating voter approval for casino gambling expansions.

West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., stakeholders in jai alai and poker room operations, contend that the Seminole Tribe’s expansion of online sports betting could significantly affect their financial interests.

The decision by the Florida Supreme Court represents a pivotal moment in a legal saga that has endured for nearly two years. However, it appears unlikely to provide an immediate resolution to the intricate and contentious debate surrounding the state’s expansion of sports wagering.