Sports betting line at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images 2016
The Florida Supreme Court won’t interfere with mobile sports betting that the Seminole Tribe of Florida is now offering through an agreement with the state of Florida.
The justices on Friday tersely rejected a request by the competing gambling operations challenging the tribe’s sports book, which operates through a “hub and spoke” network — bettors can place wagers anywhere within the state as long as they run through servers on tribal land.
The tribe opened mobile sports betting on Nov. 7 after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling allowing the hub-and-spoke system under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, or IGRA. That law regulates Indian gambling but restricts it to tribal land. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland had authorized the tribe’s deal with the state by not formally objecting to it.
West Flagler Associates Ltd. and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., respectively a casino and a poker room that have contested the deal in state and federal court, asked the court that same day to conduct expedited proceedings into the legality of the sports betting, citing the tribe’s “disruption of the status quo” in their underlying challenge.
That underlying case remains pending before the state high court.
The so-called Seminole Gaming Compact, reached in 2021 between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the tribe, allows the hub-and-spoke arrangement, exclusive to the tribe. The deal resolved years of conflict over the terms of an earlier gambling compact and induced the Seminoles to resume paying the state a cut of its gambling profits. The state projected its takings at $2.5 billion through the first five years and $6 billion by 2030. The Legislature approved the arrangement.
The state lawsuit invoked language in the Florida Constitution requiring a referendum to approve most new casino gambling in the state outside of tribal areas. No Casinos, a Florida organization that opposes casino gambling, has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in both the state and federal cases to oppose the deal.
The tribe offered mobile sports betting for about a month in 2021 but stopped pending the court proceedings. New sports betting is open to people who participated then, although the Seminoles are signing up new customers on a waiting list.
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