TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily halted an appeals court ruling that would have allowed the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer sports betting across the state. Chief Justice John Roberts issued an order imposing a stay after the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a gambling deal between the state and the tribe, which included sports betting.
The order came in response to a request for a stay from pari-mutuel companies West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., who are preparing to challenge the appeals court ruling at the Supreme Court. The order stated that a “mandate,” the final step in the appeals court ruling, is “hereby recalled and stayed pending further order of the undersigned (Roberts) or of the (Supreme) Court.”
The order did not provide details on Roberts’ reasons for the decision. The pari-mutuel companies filed a lawsuit in 2021 after Florida lawmakers ratified the gambling deal, which had been signed by Governor Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. The deal, known as a compact, includes provisions for mobile sports wagers to be conducted anywhere in the state, with bets handled by computer servers on tribal property.
The pari-mutuel companies argue that this plan was designed to circumvent a 2018 state constitutional amendment that requires voter approval for casino gambling in Florida. They contend that the compact violates the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) because it authorizes gambling off tribal lands.
In November 2021, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled against the compact, invalidating parts of the agreement. However, a panel of the appeals court later reversed Friedrich’s ruling, and the full appeals court declined to reconsider the challenge.
The appeals court panel determined that a compact can legally allow a tribe to conduct gaming only on its own lands but does not prohibit discussing other topics, including those governing activities “outside Indian lands.” Attorneys for the pari-mutuel companies filed a request for a stay at the Supreme Court on October 6, stating that the IGRA does not authorize the interior secretary to approve a compact allowing gambling off tribal lands.
They also expressed concerns about the potential implications of the appeals court ruling, stating that it raises a question of nationwide importance regarding the use of IGRA compacts to provide for gaming off Indian lands. The request highlighted the possibility of sports betting in Florida before the Supreme Court has the opportunity to address the underlying issues, which could result in numerous transactions violating both state and federal law.
Roberts’ order allows the Department of Interior and the tribe until October 18 to respond. The Seminole Tribe briefly introduced the Hard Rock SportsBook mobile app in 2021 but suspended accepting wagers and deposits on the app after Friedrich’s ruling. West Flagler Associates holds three jai alai licenses, while Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. operates as the Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida.
In addition to the ongoing Supreme Court case, the pari-mutuel companies have also filed a separate lawsuit at the Florida Supreme Court, alleging that the compact violates the 2018 constitutional amendment. This case is currently pending.
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