Florida Sports Betting Stay Lifted by US Supreme Court
In the latest twist in a two-year legal wrangle, the U.S. Supreme Court has lifted the stay on Florida sports betting it issued earlier this month. That paves the way for Hard Rock Bet to launch in the state. The stay related to a $2.5 billion gaming compact between the state and Hard Rock International owner the Seminole Tribe, which has been under legal contention since 2021.
The decision comes after Chief Justice John Roberts issued an administrative stay earlier this month while the court considered a request for a long-term stay made by lawyers representing Florida casino operators West Flagler. That stay has now been lifted, with the prospects of the full appeal not looking good, given the Supreme Court’s opinion.
The ruling is a significant step forward for the Seminole Tribe, which has been seeking to resume online sports betting in Florida after a nearly two-year pause. During this time, it completely rebranded its Hard Rock Sportsbook into Hard Rock Bet.
“The denial of the stay by the U.S. Supreme Court is very good news,” said Tribe spokesperson Gary Bitner. “The Seminole Tribe of Florida is heartened by this decision.”
Ongoing Legal Battle
The legal battle over sports betting in Florida has been ongoing for several years. The Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida reached a gambling deal in May 2021, which permitted sports betting and authorized the Tribe to add craps and roulette to its current casinos.
However, the compact has faced numerous legal challenges. Some centered on questioning the legality of tribal online sports betting throughout the state via the Hard Rock Bet mobile app. The lawsuit has wound its way through two layers of federal courts, with divergent views from the judges involved.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C Circuit ruled in favor of the Seminoles, stating that the 2021 compact did not break the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
However, West Flagler appealed for a rehearing on that decision – which was not granted. Then the operator’s lawyers asked for a stay (or temporary pause) on the D.C Court ruling while they formulated their case to the Supreme Court
That stay was granted while the Supreme Court considered the full request. But now it has been rescinded.
Launching Hard Rock Bet Worth the Risk?
The question now is whether the Seminole Tribe will resume sports betting in Florida.
The Tribe has indicated that it is considering its options, with two court cases still pending. The Florida Supreme Court is currently considering state law issues related to the Tribe’s potential off-reservation gaming operations.
“To the extent that a separate Florida statute (as distinct from the compact) authorizes the Seminole Tribe—and only the Seminole Tribe—to conduct certain off-reservation gaming operations in Florida, the state law raises serious equal protection issues,” said Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“But the state law’s constitutionality is not squarely presented in this application, and the Florida Supreme Court is, in any event, currently considering state-law issues related to the Tribe’s potential off-reservation gaming operations.”
However, legally, there is now nothing stopping Hard Rock Bet from launching in Florida once again.
The only consideration is that either the Florida Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court could (eventually) rule against them and shut it down again. But that battle will take time, with the U.S. Supreme Court expected to take at least until early 2024 to decide if it is hearing the case at all.
Given there is now no stay, the Seminoles could well think that a potential six months of revenues from legal NFL football betting might be worth the risk.
West Flagler has until December 11 to register its filing for The Supreme Court, although its lawyers have said its case will be ready by mid-November.
Interestingly, retail sportsbooks in the Sunshine State are also in a similar legal limbo. Technically they may not be illegal. But no operator has been bold enough to launch one yet, given the potential legal challenges.
Given the legal ramifications of all this, sports betting operators and fans across the U.S. will be closely watching what the Seminoles and Hard Rock Bet do next.
Related: The top Online casinos in Florida, rated and reviewed