U.S. Supreme Court asked to uphold Florida Seminole sports betting deal

by | May 14, 2024

The U.S. Department of the Interior has urged the Supreme Court to reject West Flagler Associates’ challenge to a sports betting compact between the Seminole Tribe and Florida, arguing that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act supports the compact’s legality.

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has formally requested that the Supreme Court deny a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by West Flagler Associates, which seeks to challenge the legality of a sports betting compact between the Seminole Tribe and the State of Florida.

In a filing submitted on Monday, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar argued that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) supports the compact’s approval. The DOI contends that IGRA, although enacted prior to the internet era, should be interpreted broadly to encompass modern economic developments like internet-based sports betting. The department asserted that the compact’s “hub-and-spoke” model, which deems bets placed off-reservation to occur on tribal land because they are processed by on-reservation servers, complies with federal law.

“[T]he approval of the Compact by operation of law does relate directly to Indian lands, because it approves gaming activity only on Indian lands,” the document reads. “And that approval further relates to the Tribe’s uniquely sovereign interests and the special relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes.”

The agreement, which grants the Seminole Tribe a 30-year monopoly on sports betting in Florida, includes provisions for statewide mobile sports betting, with the stipulation that the servers processing the wagers are located on tribal lands. Following ratification of the Gaming Compact, the Florida Seminole Tribe launched its Hard Rock Sportsbook app, allowing bettors to wager on game lines, spreads, futures, player props, and more. In December, the Tribe announced its plans to resume payments to Florida, committing to at least $650 million over the next year as part of the 30-year compact.

West Flagler Associates, along with the owners of the Bonita Springs Poker Room, has been in a legal dispute with the DOI and the state since the compact’s ratification. They have argued that the compact violates the IGRA by permitting gambling off tribal lands and contravenes the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). They additionally claimed that the agreement breaches the Fifth Amendment by establishing a monopoly based on race and tribal affiliation.

A district court initially ruled in favor of West Flagler Associates, stating that the compact violated IGRA’s “Indian lands” requirement. However, this decision was reversed by the court of appeals, which concluded that the compact only authorizes gaming on tribal lands. The appeals court interpreted the mobile betting provision as a jurisdictional agreement rather than an expansion of betting locations.

In its filing, the DOI noted that the appeals court’s interpretation is consistent with IGRA’s regulatory framework, which limits gaming authorization to tribal lands but permits state and tribal agreements on related activities. The DOI also argued that the compact does not violate UIGEA, as it does not specify payment methods for online bets, and any future implementation must comply with federal laws.


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