Status of Florida Mobile Sports Betting Inches Toward U.S. Supreme Court

Status of Florida Mobile Sports Betting Inches Toward U.S. Supreme Court article feature image

Rob Foldy/Getty Images. Pictured: A detailed view of a Florida Gators flag.

A ruling by an appellate court on Friday inches the status of mobile sports betting in Florida closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hard Rock — owned by the Seminole Tribe — had the only mobile sports betting app in Florida for three weeks in Nov. 2021 before a judge ruled the compact created between the state and the Seminole Tribe was illegal.

But the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Seminole Tribe today, reversing an old decision by the District Court that only permitted tribes to conduct gambling operations on physical tribal soil — not the rest of Florida.

The move on Friday means that — should the U.S. Supreme Court confirm the appellate court decision — the Seminole Tribe could one day see its dream of restarting mobile sports betting in the state of Florida.

What does this case mean for sports betting as a whole? What's the timeline going forward? How soon may the U.S. Supreme Court decide on this issue? For that the Action Network consulted with renowned sports betting legal expert Daniel Wallach to break it down.

Darren Rovell: OK Dan, what’s the timeline to getting sports betting in Florida?

Dan Wallach: It depends on what additional channels of judicial review are pursued. If West Flagler requests rehearing en banc before the full D.C. Circuit and then seeks review by the U.S. Supreme Court, it could be an additional year or so before there is finality at the federal level. During that time, it is unlikely that sports betting would relaunch in Florida, but there is a chance.

Rovell: How surprised are you at the reversal?

Wallach: I’m not surprised after hearing the oral argument in December because it seemed that at least one of the panel judges was inclined to reverse the decision of the lower court, but I am surprised in that the DC Circuit’s opinion deviates from prior judicial rulings in other circuits, perhaps setting the stage for the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the conflict.

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Rovell: So these compacts basically give Native American tribes the right to run gaming on their lands, but mobile is completely different. What happens now?

Wallach: There likely will be two more tiers of appellate review. West Flagler, which is one of the plaintiffs in the underlying lawsuit, will likely ask for rehearing en banc, which is a hearing in front of the entire court of appeals. And if that’s unsuccessful, West Flagler can file a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme asking the high court to review the D.C. Circuit’s ruling. At least four of the nine SCOTUS justices have to agree to review the case, and, if that happens, there will be merits briefing and an oral argument – which would likely take place in 2024.This is basically following the same route that Chris Christie and New Jersey took to get PASPA overturned.

Rovell: Do the Seminoles do anything before a Supreme Court ruling?

Wallach: They will assess whether they will be able to re-launch sports betting in Florida in the interim. However, if a petition for rehearing en banc is filed, that would delay the issuance of the mandate in the case until the petition is ruled upon. In all likelihood, sports betting would not relaunch until all federal court proceedings (including SCOTUS) have been resolved with finality.

Rovell: I know the Supreme Court rarely takes cases in general. What are the real chances the justices will take this on?

Wallach: While it’s a long-shot (as all petitions are), this one has several of the key markers – a circuit split coupled with an important legal issue affecting tribal and non-tribal gaming operators in many states.

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