West Flagler Denied In Florida Sports Betting Case, Hard Rock Sportsbook One Step Closer to Relaunch
On August 14, West Flagler — the plaintiff in the ongoing Florida sports betting case — filed a petition for rehearing en banc in its case against the Seminole Tribe. On Monday, the petition was denied by the District of Columbia Circuit Court.
The denial reads:
“Upon consideration of appellees’ petition for rehearing en banc, the response thereto, and the absence of a request by any member of the court for a vote, it is ORDERED that the petition be denied.”
As a result, Florida sports betting could be back up and running by Sept. 19 — in time for Week 3 of the NFL season, but there is still a lot at play here.
Florida Sports Betting Looks to Launch During NFL Season
Legally, the denial goes into effect eight days after the decision, meaning that — barring action by West Flager — the Seminole Tribe and its Hard Rock Sportsbook app could be live in Florida by Sept. 19.
Most legal experts believe that West Flagler will take the case to the Supreme Court.
By pursuing the Supreme Court, West Flagler can request a stay order to prevent the Seminole Tribe from relaunching the Hard Rock app. But if that’s their goal, the clock is ticking.
If the Supreme Court route fails, West Flagler could also potentially file in Florida state court based on the 2018 Amendment 3. Florida Amendment 3 gives Florida voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.” Florida voters never voted on sports betting.
It seems almost certain that the Seminole Tribe relaunches its Hard Rock Sportsbook app until they are told otherwise. That being said, the longevity of this potential relaunch is still a question mark.
Florida Sports Betting Case Could Go to Supreme Court
If West Flagler files a motion to stay the issuance of the mandate in the Florida Sports Betting case, it could open the door for a review of the case by the Supreme Court — something that the highest court may be inclined to entertain.
“This issue will continue to surface – even after this case concludes,” Wallach wrote. “Therefore, it would make sense for the Supreme Court to address this issue now and bring much needed clarity to the divisive question of whether IGRA’s reach extends to tribal-regulated gaming activities outside of Indian lands, rather than let the issue further devolve into a maze of conflicting and contradictory federal court rulings,” said sports betting legal expert Dan Wallach in an interview with Lineups.
Were a stay motion to be filed, the U.S. a Supreme Court petition would need to be filed by Dec. 11.
What This Means Moving Forward
Part of what makes the Florida sports betting case interesting is how it applies to other states where the gaming industry is governed by local tribes. States like California come to mind, where there is an ongoing PR and policy battle between online operators and the tribes.
Though the recent ruling by the DC Circuit Court may signal optimism for proponents of legal online betting in the state of California, the DC Circuit Court’s opinion and reasoning for denying West Flagler in the Florida case is not binding on any other circuit.
This means that other circuits are not obliged to follow the precedent set in the DC Circuit, though they could look to emulate it. But it’s not that easy.
“In the event that there are any downstream impacts from this DC Circuit ruling, the possibility exists that tribes and states will rely on the Florida compact structure in their own compacting relationships in the future,” Wallach told Lineups. “If that happens, there is certainly a realistic prospect of somebody suing over it, raising the same exact arguments that West Flagler raised in their federal lawsuit, sans the Florida constitutional piece.”
If California — or other states that have been the subject of tribal-state conflicts related to sports wagering — tried to emulate the provisions set in Florida, they would be met with at least five conflicting cases in which the circuit court has previously ruled that IGRA cannot in fact be applied to regulate off-reservation tribal gaming.
In other words, if this works out for the Seminole Tribe and Florida, it doesn’t mean the same strategy can be used in other states. For other states to facilitate online gaming through tribal entities, it would have to be approved by their own local court system hence why a Supreme Court ruling would be the easiest path to ending the discussion.