This is a developing story and will be updated.
Florida sports betting could be dead after a federal court ruled on Monday that the compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe is vacated.
The ruling in West Flagler Associates vs. Haaland from Judge Dabney Friedrich means that pending an appeal and a potential stay of the order, sports betting will need to cease in the Sunshine State.”
In the case in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, pari-mutuel operators in Florida claimed that the compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The Department of the Interior, led by Secretary Deb Haaland, allowed the compact to become law earlier this year.
Here is the full opinion from Friedrich. The news of the opinion was first reported by attorney Daniel Wallach on Twitter.
As of Tuesday morning, the Hard Rock Sportsbook app was still active in Florida.
What the opinion said
“The Court will hold that the Compact violates IGRA and grant the West Flagler plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment,” Friedrich opens with before laying out the rationale.
Under IGRA, all gambling must take place on tribal lands when authorized by state compacts. Online sports betting, however, takes place statewide under the Seminole compact. That document endeavored to say that all wagers take place on servers on tribal land, regardless of where the bettor is located in the state.
Friedrich, in the opinion sets out that “it is well-settled that IGRA authorizes sports betting only on Indian lands. … “It is equally clear that the Secretary must reject compacts that violate IGRA’s terms.”
More from Friedrich:
In its own words, the Compact authorizes such betting by patrons who are “physically located in the State [of Florida] but not on [the Tribe’s] Indian Lands.” Compact § III(CC)(2) (emphasis added). That italicized phrase is no slip of the tongue, but instead describes the basic consequence of authorizing online betting throughout the State.
Most locations in Florida are not Indian lands, which IGRA defines to mean lands “within the limits of any Indian reservation,” “held in trust by the United States for the benefit of any Indian tribe,” or “over which an Indian tribe exercises governmental power,” 25 U.S.C. § 2703(4).
And although the Compact “deem[s]” all sports betting to occur at the location of the Tribe’s “sports book(s)” and supporting servers, see Compact § III(CC)(2), this Court cannot accept that fiction.
As a result of the findings, Friedrich goes on to opine that the only appropriate remedy is to “set aside” the Department of the Interior’s approval of the compact. That results in the compact no longer having the force of law.
What’s next for the Florida sports betting case?
That’s not exactly clear. As of today, under a court ruling, sports betting is no longer legal in the state of Florida. That should mean that Hard Rock, the only sports betting app in the state, will have to stop taking wagers from Floridians.
But the case is likely to see an appeal from the Department of the Interior. Such an appeal would go to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
The DOI could (and likely will) ask for a stay of the opinion of the circuit court, which would allow the compact — and sports betting — to remain in place for the time being. The status of such an appeal or request is unknown right now.
The bottom line: Florida sports betting stands on much shakier legal ground than it did yesterday. And its immediate future is murky.