Department of Interior Submits Brief Supporting Florida Gaming Compact

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Michael Savio
USA Legal Betting
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  • The DOI originally approved Florida’s gaming compact
  • West Flagler is pushing to have SCOTUS review the legality of the compact
  • The Seminole Tribe is the sole operator in the state

Online sports betting has been live in Florida for almost five months now, but the battle over the gaming compact allowing it remains under fire.

The US Department of the Interior (DOI) filed a brief with the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in response to the latest legal challenge to Florida’s gaming compact. The 31-page filing reaffirms the DOI’s stance that the compact is legal and does not merit a review from the nation’s highest court.

“The court of appeals correctly upheld the Compact’s approval by operation of law, and its decision does not conflict with any decision of this Court or another court of appeals. This Court previously denied petitioners’ application for a stay of the court of appeals’ mandate raising the same contentions. The Court should similarly deny certiorari,” The DOI brief stated.

Florida’s gaming compact is the foundation on which their sports betting market was built. It gives full rights to the industry to the Seminole Tribe, whose Hard Rock Bet online sportsbook is the only operators allowed to operate in Florida.

The DOI approved the original compact and has continued to support it against all legal challenges.

West Flagler Continues to Argue Compact is Illegal

While the compact received legislative support from both sides of the aisles, it drew an immediate legal challenge from West Flagler Associates. The group argued that the gaming compact mis-applied the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which allows federally recognized tribes to offer gambling on their lands.

Florida used the IGRA to hand the rights for online sports betting to the Seminole Tribe. West Flagler argues that since online sports betting will primarily be done using betting apps off tribal lands, the IGRA should not apply. This misinterpretation led to a monopoly being created, blocking out any other potential operators.

West Flagler has also argued that the state violated its own constitution by not putting out a public referendum before legalizing the compact. The constitution says any expansion of gambling in the state must be voted on by the public, which Florida did not do.

The group originally won the legal battle but have suffered loss after loss in appeals court, thanks largely to the DOI. Their last hope now lies with SCOTUS, leading to them filing a writ of certiorari. If granted, this would lead to a full review of the case and a ruling from SCOTUS.

Legal Battle Could Set Precedent for Future Markets

While West Flagler has failed to make much progress through the courts, there is a strong push for SCOTUS to review the case. While the case only focuses on Florida, a ruling would set a national precedent.

There are a handful of states that are still working towards launching legal sports betting markets. If SCOTUS reviews and rejects West Flagler’s argument, it could lead to a major push for tribes to pursue gaming compacts like Florida’s. That could be a big deal as California and Texas rank among the states that have yet to join the ranks of legal sports betting states.