Upcoming Match-ups

West Flagler Files Lawsuit With Florida Supreme Court to Block Florida Online Sports Betting

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Updated Sep 26, 2023 · 9:11 AM PDT

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) pumps up the crowd after throwing a touchdown pass during the third quarter Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Jaguars blanked the Indianapolis Colts 24-0.
  • West Flagler has filed a constitutional challenge with the Florida Supreme Court over the online sports betting provisions in the approved 2021 gaming compact
  • West Flagler and Bonita Springs assert the approved gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe expanded casino gaming without necessary voter approval
  • The gaming expansion is in violation of the Florida Constitution, West Flagler counsel wrote in the petition

The fight for Florida online sports betting is now being waged on two fronts, as West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Meyers Corporation have filed a lawsuit with the Florida Supreme Court to invalidate the online sports betting language in the state’s approved 2021 gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday, Sept. 25, with the Florida Supreme Court around 11:30 p.m. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is named as the other party in the petition.

West Flagler is also continuing its fight against Florida online sports betting at the federal level and will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the issue as well.

West Flagler Believes Florida Sports Betting Must Be Approved by Voters

Raquel A. Rodriguez of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, counsel representing West Flagler in this Florida Supreme Court petition, wrote that the approved 2021 gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe, which included online sports betting exclusivity for the Seminole Tribe, violates Amendment 3 of the Florida Constitution. Florida voters approved the amendment in 2018, which declares that voters have the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.”

In the petition, West Flagler asserts that the “implementing law” authorizing the off-reservation sports betting provision of the compact expanded casino gambling throughout the state, not just tribal lands.

“Under the Florida Constitution, the people must approve any new casino gambling in the state through the citizens’ initiative process — the off-reservation sports betting provisions of the 2021 compact and the off-reservation portions of the implementing law violate Article X, Section 30 of the Florida Constitution. Neither the governor nor the legislature can expand gambling in Florida in derogation of the people’s constitutional final say,” Rodriguez wrote in the petition.

The petition notes that Gov. DeSantis exceeded his authority by entering into a compact that granted the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to offer off-reservation online and in-person sports betting throughout the state.

Under the compact, Rodriguez writes, anyone over the age of 21 can place an online sports bet anywhere in the state.

“The 2021 compact and implementing law are a clear expansion of casino gambling in Florida without a voter-approved constitutional amendment by citizens’ initiative, as required by Article X, Section 30. In so doing, the respondents have exceeded their authority in direct violation of the Florida Constitution.”

The Seminole Tribe declined to comment on the lawsuit.

D.C. Circuit Court Did Not Rule on Amendment 3 Issue

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia did not share an opinion on a potential Amendment 3 violation in its ruling that affirmed the gaming compact this past June.  In fact, the court noted in its ruling that an Amendment 3 conclusion would be best considered in a Florida court.

“And particularly, for avoidance of doubt, we express no opinion as to whether the Florida statute ratifying the Compact is constitutional under Fla. Const. art. X, § 30. That question and any other related questions of state law are outside the scope of the Secretary’s review of the Compact, are outside the scope of our judicial review, and as a prudential matter are best left for Florida’s courts to decide,” the court noted in its ruling.

Daniel Wallach, a gaming law attorney, Founder of Wallach Legal and UNHLaw Sports Wagering, noted on X feed today that this challenge at the Florida Supreme Court level may further delay any potential chance for a Hard Rock Bet launch in the state.

Federal Courts Still Mulling Over Challenge

As the Florida courts decide whether to take up the petition, the Florida sports betting issue is still raging on at the federal court level.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of the Interior officially opposed a requested motion for stay of a mandate to restore a 2021 Florida Gaming Compact. West Flagler now has until Monday, Oct. 2, to respond to the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) official objection.

West Flagler requested a stay of the mandate on Friday, Sept. 15, close to midnight, intending to submit a writ of certiorari to hear the case with SCOTUS. West Flagler has until Monday, Dec. 11, to file with SCOTUS.

In its motion, West Flagler attorneys note that unless a stay is granted the court’s mandate will “upset the status quo” in Florida by permitting the Seminole Tribe to offer online sports betting.

In its objection to the motion for a stay, Rachel Heron, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, representing the DOI, wrote that a “stay is not warranted, because any such petition could present no substantial question for Supreme Court review.”

“This Court reached a narrow, case-specific holding about the meaning of particular in one particular Compact under the Indian Gaming Regulator Act (IGRA). Its decision makes explicitly clear that the Compact does not purport to-and as a matter of law, could not-authorize the gaming activities outside Indian land that West Flagler believes are illegal, and that West Flagler’s dispute is instead with the Florida law that does authorize these activities,” Heron noted.

Author Image