Seminole Sports Betting Ruling May Be Revisited by Federal Court


A Florida cardroom operator is asking a federal appeals court to reverse its decision to uphold an agreement that gives the Seminole tribe exclusive rights to sports betting in the Sunshine State.

federal appeals court Seminole Tribe Florida sports betting
A sports bettor downloads the Hard Rock Sportsbook app following Florida’s April 2021 agreement to allow the Seminole Tribe to operate online sports betting through a new 30-year gaming compact. A federal appeals court is being asked to revisit its decision siding with the Seminole Tribe. (Image: WFTV)

West Flagler Associates, which has spent nearly two years fighting the Seminoles in court, lost last month in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, DC, Circuit.

In a petition for rehearing filed Monday, West Flagler said the DC Circuit Court panel erred when it determined that the Seminole Tribe’s sports betting arrangement doesn’t violate the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

West Flagler asked for an “en banc” rehearing by all 11 judges on the DC Circuit.

In June, a three-judge panel unanimously ruled that IGRA does not prohibit the tribe from accepting online wagers under its agreement with Florida.

Exclusive Access

The Seminole Tribe has exclusive right to operate Las Vegas-style casino gambling with house-banked table games in Florida. It owns and operates a half-dozen casinos in the state, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.

In 2021, the tribe reached an agreement with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to adopt a new 30-year compact. That would give the tribe a monopoly on sports betting in the state.

West Flagler, which operates the Bonita Springs Poker Room in South Florida, says the arrangement violates federal prohibitions on off-reservation gaming, as well as the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

An ‘Obvious Ruse’

The Florida-Seminole compact allowed the tribe to accept bets from anyone within the state, but declared that the bets would be considered to be received on tribal lands. That’s where the tribe’s sportsbook servers are located, making the arrangement permissible under the state constitution.

This was an obvious ruse,” West Flagler argued in its filing. “It sought to use the federal approval of an IGRA compact for gaming ‘on Indian lands’ to confer a statewide sports betting monopoly on the Tribe, while making such conduct a felony for all other persons. The Compact was thus an abuse of IGRA to bypass a state constitutional requirement. It was also a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.”

In response to the filing, the Seminole Tribe reportedly reiterated that the DC Circuit panel’s decision was unanimous in its favor. “It’s important to note the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a unanimous decision in favor of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which approved the Gaming Compact between the Seminole Tribe and the State of Florida.”

The DC Circuit hadn’t ruled on West Flagler’s motion as of Tuesday evening. If the court declines to schedule an en banc hearing, the company’s last remaining option would be to ask for the Supreme Court to intervene.

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