Rehearing of Sports Betting Compact Requested in Florida Legal Saga

USA Legal Betting


  • The current compact grants the Seminoles control of the online sports betting market
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a decision from a federal district judge in Washington D.C.
  • If a rehearing is denied, the case could advance to the U.S. Supreme Court

West Flagler Associates has asked for a rehearing in the ongoing saga of legal sports betting in Florida following the U.S. Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold a compact.

The deal in place—and the one that was verified by the federal court—grants authority to the Seminole Tribe for online wagers since they are processed on servers at their facility. West Flagler owns Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room and wants a cut. 

A federal judge in 2021 sided with West Flagler, but that decision was reversed by a three-person committee ruling in the Court of Appeals on June 30th. However, Hard Rock Sportsbook (owned by the Seminoles) never reopened as it anticipated a further challenge.

Reversing a decision

Essentially, West Flagler is seeking autonomy from the Seminoles. If a rehearing, or “en banc,” is granted, the board of judges would increase from three to most or all of the active members in the U.S. Court of Appeals. 

The compact was first agreed to in August 2021 and granted the Seminoles exclusive rights to operate online sports betting. A D.C. federal district judge ruled in November 2021 that the compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) because it authorized gambling that did not occur on native land. 

The district judge also asserted that processing bets on native territory did not mean that the bets themselves were placed there, thereby stripping the Seminoles of the right to exclusively dominate the online gaming space.

The Court of Appeals took a different perspective on the case. They said the compact “only [authorized] the Tribe’s activity on its own lands, that is, operating the [retail] sports book and receiving wagers,” thereby putting it in line with the IGRA. 

A rehearing request is expected to be denied. The next step would be for the case to make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in what would be a landmark case and precedent for the multi-billion-dollar sports betting industry. 

Many states have arrangements related to sports betting with native tribes and casinos. Tribes in these states could offer sportsbook apps and assume control of the market as long as the servers the bets are processed on are housed internally.

These tribes could still have the opportunity to partner with existing sportsbook operators, depending on the terms of the language used in the state’s sports betting legislation and the compact.

Outlook in Florida

Even though sports betting is technically legal in Florida, it is not operational because of the ongoing conflict. The Seminoles briefly offered sports betting via the Hard Rock mobile app but halted operations in December 2021 because of the legal battle. 

There was widespread hope that retail sports betting would be up and running in time for the start of the 2023 NFL season on September 7. The current climate (and logistics) suggest that that ambition will ultimately pass unfulfilled.

As the saga continues, there may be a new powerhouse that becomes involved in the legal battle: Disney. The owner of ESPN recently partnered with PENN Entertainment in a deal worth $2 billion spread across 10 years to create ESPN Bet, a soon-to-launch mobile betting platform with the goal of competing with the “Big Four” operators (FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, and Caesars).

Disney has been credited as having the largest influence of any company in molding the state of Florida. It would be remiss not to pursue opportunities that allow it to capitalize on the infrastructure it has established there.

The Sunshine State is also the third-most-populous state in America and would become one of the leaders in American sports betting overnight if given the proper infrastructure. New York (home to three million fewer people) owns the most successful sports betting market and regularly produces monthly betting handles in excess of $1 billion.

Sports betting apps will not reach Florida until the legal loose ends are tied. When they do return, Hard Rock Sportsbook App will rebrand as Hard Rock Bet.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.