Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to Florida Sports Betting Compact

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Edward Scimia

Updated by Edward Scimia

Journalist

Last Updated 18th Jun 2024, 11:57 AM

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to Florida Sports Betting Compact

The Supreme Court of the United States declined Monday to take up a challenge to a Florida State gaming compact that gives the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to online sports betting in the state.

Only Justice Brett Kavanaugh was in favor of granting the writ of certiorari, which was filed by West Flagler Associates. At least four justices must agree to hear a case for it to come before the Supreme Court.

Opponents See Compact as Work-Around to State, Federal Law

West Flagler Associates, a pari-mutuel operator that runs racetracks and poker rooms throughout Florida, has argued that the Seminole Tribe and Florida officials are essentially working around the will of the people in the state by allowing the tribe to offer online sports betting.

In 2018, voters passed an amendment to the Florida Constitution that requires a ballot initiative in order to expand casino gambling outside of tribal land. In addition, West Flagler has pointed to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which requires that tribal gaming take place on tribal lands. 

Since bettors can place sports bets throughout the state of Florida, they argue, this violates both the IGRA and the state constitution, and that both the state legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis exceeded their powers by approving the compact between the tribes and the state in 2021.

However, the Seminole Tribe has countered by saying that the bets are all taken from servers located on tribal grounds, therefore they are not in violation of any of these laws. In addition, the tribe argues that Florida’s legislature has the authority to decide where online gambling is initiated, and can therefore determine that it is within the constraints of the constitutional amendment. 

Both the Seminoles and the state government have also argued that sports betting is not “casino gambling.”

An appeals court sided with the Seminole Tribe last September, which allowed the tribe to launch its sports betting sites in December. The Supreme Court’s decision not to take up the case effectively ends this challenge to the compact, though West Flagler may still fight the deal on other grounds both in state and federal courts.

“The Seminole Tribe of Florida applauds today’s decision by the US Supreme Court to decline consideration of the case involving the Tribe’s Gaming Compact with the State of Florida,” Seminole spokesperson Gary Bitner said in a statement on Monday. “It means members of the Seminole Tribe and all Floridians can count on a bright future made possible by the Compact.”

Other States Could Follow Florida’s Lead

While the Supreme Court declines to hear more than 95 percent of cases put before it, high-profile sports betting controversies and debate over its national spread in recent months made some analysts believe that there was at least a chance this case could reach the docket.

The case could have implications that stretch well beyond Florida. Other tribes and states may see this arrangement – where a tribe offers online gambling from its own lands – as a workaround to state prohibitions on online gambling. One likely candidate is California, where tribes have previously failed to win ballot initiatives to offer online gambling.

While it is unclear exactly how much handle or profit the Seminole Tribe has made from online sports betting, the state of Florida has already collected more than $120 million in revenues from online wagering in 2024.

Meet The Author

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Edward Scimia
Edward Scimia
Journalist Journalist

Ed Scimia is a freelance writer who has been covering the gaming industry since 2008. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2003 with degrees in Magazine Journalism and Political Science. In his time as a freelancer, Ed has worked for About.com, Gambling.com, and Covers.com, among other sites. He has also authored multiple books and enjoys curling competitively, which has led to him creating curling-related content for his YouTube channel "Chess on Ice."

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