Florida Sports Betting Stalls as Tribal Case Goes to Court

  • The Seminole tribe is the primary defendant in the case
  • The tribe is following a “hub and spoke model” established by New Jersey
  • Florida governor Ron DeSantis supports gambling, but expected judicial pushback
  • Florida cannot present another sports betting measure on the ballot until 2024
Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood
Florida sports betting is going to Federal Court as the Seminole Tribe pleads its case. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

The legal setting

Florida sports betting looks likely to be pushed back until at least 2023.

whether or not the Seminole tribe has the right to offer online sports betting

The primary legal debate stalling the progress centers on whether or not the Seminole tribe has the right to offer online sports betting in the new sports betting compact. The D.C. Circuit revealed the schedule for the case on Tuesday, penciling in opening briefs for mid-August with oral arguments coming later in the fall.

Because of the stretched-out timetable, Florida is going to be hard pressed to get its betting system back up and running before the turn of the year.

Florida sports betting fails to take off

Florida has long been one of the key pieces in the stack of sports betting dominoes. The Sunshine State briefly picked up steam in November 2021 after Hard Rock opened the state’s only facility with legal online betting that did not require an in-person sign-up, but it was shut down just 34 days after its inception.

The Seminoles used a “hub and spoke model” to accept bets. Essentially, bets processed on Seminole servers were considered to have been placed on tribal land.

The court found that Hard Rock violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA)

The court found that Hard Rock violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), swiftly ending the venture on December 4th. 

The Seminoles seemed to know they were walking on thin ice, as their launch came without any confetti or announcements. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he expected the courts to oppose the opening.

“We anticipated that this could happen,” DeSantis said in response, referring to the server controversy as an “unsettled legal issue.”

DraftKings and FanDuel unsuccessfully attempted to wield their influence early in 2022, contributing $37m in a failed attempt to raise enough signatures to get sports betting on the ballot. 

Looking ahead

Floridians can take solace that sports betting has already been legalized through the compact; many lawmakers also expected legal challenges after signing the legislation last May.

industry insiders expect the case to drag along until it reaches the Supreme Court

However, there are reports that industry insiders expect the case to drag along until it reaches the Supreme Court in what could be the most impactful sports betting case since the 2018 decision that made it possible nationwide. 

The Seminoles’ case revolves heavily around the precedent of New Jersey’s hub-and-spoke model, but because they are dealing with tribal law more heavily, there are more boxes to check.

Florida will not be able to put another initiative on the ballot until 2024; until then, the state is still offering daily fantasy sports (DFS) and PrizePicks, an app for over/under player props.