The full ramifications from the Florida sports betting case are yet to be known but wagering remains illegal, for now at least.
Last week, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned a District Court decision that blocked sports betting in the Sunshine State.
The case still has longshot potential to reach the Supreme Court. Yet one legal expert opined that FL sports betting via the Hard Rock Sportsbook app potentially could return before the start of the 2023 NFL season.
“I don’t really see any reason for any delay in (the Seminoles’) ability to launch,” gaming attorney Jeff Ifrah told LSR following the decision. “I expect they will be able to launch before the NFL season.”
Hard Rock evaluating options
As it stands, Hard Rock is evaluating its options.
“The Seminole Tribe of Florida is pleased with today’s unanimous decision,” the tribe said in a statement following the decision.
“It is a positive outcome for the Seminole Tribe and the people of Florida, and for all of Indian Country. The Tribe is fully reviewing the decision to determine its next steps.”
Florida sports betting pathways
The Seminole Tribe essentially has a monopoly on the sports betting market through the Florida gaming compact that was agreed to with Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021.
As it stands, the Hard Rock app would be the only legal wagering option for people in the Sunshine State. The pathway for the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings would be to get a market-access deal through the tribe itself. Such a deal comes with at least a 40% revenue-sharing component likely to keep major operators – who failed last year to qualify a ballot measure on their inclusion – from participating.
“I think anybody else who wants to be part of Florida sports betting needs to pick up the phone and call Hard Rock and figure out how to do that, because that’s the scheme that’s currently in play …” Ifrah said.
“They may not like it, but I think that’s what they’ll do. And then there will be multiple brands in Florida eventually.”
Relaunch possibility for Hard Rock sports betting app
Before the NFL season begins Sept. 7 would represent the most optimistic timeline. The current judgment will likely not become a mandate for 52 days (Aug. 21), as the result of an order that was issued alongside the decision.
It is unclear how West Flagler Associates will proceed in terms of a possible appeal at the moment.
John Sowinski, a spokesperson for Florida anti-gambling group No Casinos, told the Tampa Bay Times that the ruling will “will not be the final word.”
Florida sports betting future at Supreme Court?
Ifrah explained why the case was unlikely to reach the Supreme Court.
“I don’t see a reason why the Supreme Court would take this case,” he said. “All this court said was the secretary had the authority to do what she did. I don’t really think that’s a revolutionary opinion.
“So I don’t think there’s going to be any real so-called ‘Circuit Split’ that would normally be required to pursue a Supreme Court appeal.”
State Court chances
However, Ifrah said, there is a chance that it could go to state court.
“The DC Circuit did say, ‘Hey, you can go to state court,’” he explained. “And if they went to Florida state court, they could raise the argument about, ‘Well, what about the notion that regular Florida persons that are not on the tribal land are able to now bet on sports? Is that a violation of state law?’
“And the DC Circuit didn’t resolve that issue. And that’s the big issue that everyone’s been waiting on. That’s the issue that’s going to be really potentially be in a play in a lot of these states.”