Feds Respond With Potential Florida Sports Betting SCOTUS Hearing Looming

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florida sports betting

The Department of the Interior responded on Monday to West Flagler Associates’ writ petition before the US Supreme Court regarding the legality of Florida sports betting. 

Gaming legal expert John Holden told LSR that the odds the Supreme Court elects to hear the case “remain very low.” 

The Supreme Court is expected to make its decision on whether to proceed in late June. If it does proceed, the Florida sports betting case would be decided some time in 2025

“The Biden Administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer makes a three-pronged argument as to why West Flagler’s cert petition should be denied,” said Ryan Rodenberg, a Florida State University professor who has followed the case closely, but has not participated as an amici like he did during the New Jersey litigation.  “Among the three arguments, the most interesting is the Solicitor General’s Due Process Clause rebuttal given that a related case involving sports betting in Washington State is currently percolating in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”   

Florida sports betting framework

The Seminole Tribe of Florida essentially has a monopoly on sports betting in the Sunshine State. It came as a result of a Gaming Compact negotiated with Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021

The Seminoles re-launched online sports betting via the Hard Rock Bet app on Nov. 7, 2023. In-person sports betting debuted at six Seminole casinos in December

DOI’s Florida sports betting response

The Department of the Interior laid out its response Monday in a 31-page filing

Petitioners contend that the court of appeals erred in upholding the Compact’s approval by operation of law because (1) IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) authorizes the Secretary to approve a compact that authorizes gaming only on Indian lands, Pet. 20-27; (2) the Compact purportedly violates UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), Pet. 29-32; and (3) the Compact purportedly grants a statewide online-sports-betting monopoly to the Seminole Tribe in violation of equal-protection principles, Pet. 32-38. 

The court of appeals correctly upheld the Compact’s approval by operation of law, and its decision does not conflict with any decision of this Court or another court of appeals. This Court previously denied petitioners’ application for a stay of the court of appeals’ mandate raising the same contentions. The Court should similarly deny certiorari.

Holden evaluates DOI’s response

Holden was not surprised by the Department of the Interior’s response. 

“It states pretty much what you’d expected it to say,” Holden said. “DOI comes out and says that the Court of Appeals was right, that the compact was fine. They use similar language as the appeals court, that there’s a separation between what state law authorizes and what the compact authorizes.

“That’s where the conflict between West Flagler and the DOI exists. The UIGEA argument, I can’t believe that argument is still hanging around. I don’t think that’s an especially strong argument.”

Equal protection argument stands out

Holden said the most significant argument from West Flagler could be equal protection, as laid out by Justice Brett Kavanaugh

“DOI basically comes out and says that there isn’t an equal protection issue. But Kavanaugh has a particular view of equal protection. Are there four other votes on the court on this statute that’s pushing 40 years old, that they haven’t found before? Maybe,” Holden said.

“And certainly we’ve seen this rendition of the Supreme Court be less afraid than past courts to sort of address long-standing precedent. But at the same time, I think there’s a real outside shot there that this is an issue.”