Published: June 6, 2022

Florida Sports Betting Still in Limbo After Federal Court Denies Appeal

Florida‘s legal betting timeline remains an enigma after a federal court denied one of several appeals to its online gaming lawsuit.

On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted the Department of Justice’s motion to voluntarily dismiss its appeal to one of several lawsuits that shut down online sports betting in the Sunshine state.

The primary appeal to West Flagler Associates vs. Haaland, which vacated the gaming compact between the state and Seminole Tribe, remains pending, though in limbo may be more apropos.

There’s still no telling when Florida, which dipped its toes into online betting for less than a month, will have it once again.

The DC Circuit has dismissed one of the appeals in the Florida sports betting compact case. Not a big deal since it was on a motion for voluntary dismissal. The main appeal remains pending, but still no briefing schedule after 7 months. This appeal won't be decided until 2023.

— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) June 2, 2022

In November, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich vacated a renegotiated gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe that gave the tribe—and its Hard Rock Sportsbook partner—exclusivity over online sports betting.

Since then Florida’s sole sports betting app has been offline, and after a failed ballot attempt, there’s not much hope to latch onto.

Interpretation of Federal Law

The Department of Interior, which approved the compact, is now fighting on behalf of the tribes and Florida to reverse the ruling. Their appeal will come down to the court’s interpretation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which mandates that when states authorize tribes to run gaming, all gaming must take place on their lands.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, argues that only means bets must be processed on tribal lands (where Hard Rock’s servers are located). Owners of the Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida, who are suing, say it means bets must be physically made on tribal lands.

The Hard Rock sports betting app lasted only three months before Friedrich invalidated it. Since then the Seminole Tribe has stopped paying Florida, which was owed a minimum of $2.5 billion over the first five years of the agreement.

Other Efforts Fall Short

A ballot initiative, backed by FanDuel, DraftKings and the usual suspects, would have allowed voters to legalize online sports betting during the November election, but it failed to get enough signatures in time to qualify.

The next time they could try a ballot initiative is 2024, though it’s unknown whether the same group will invest time and money in another Florida campaign.

We could have a ruling on DOI’s appeal by then, though today’s news isn’t a sign of positive news to come.

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