U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Seminole Gaming Compact

by | Jun 17, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge against the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s exclusive rights to online sports betting.

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear a challenge against the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s exclusive rights to online sports betting, a move that solidifies the Tribe’s monopoly on the sector.

West Flagler Associates, a group of pari-mutuels, initiated the lawsuit, arguing that the Seminole Tribe’s gaming compact with the state of Florida, approved in 2021, violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. This compact, agreed upon by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe, stipulates that all online sports betting takes place on tribal lands because the servers are located there under a ‘hub-and-spoke’ model, thus circumventing federal restrictions that confine gambling to tribal lands.

The decision, announced Monday, comes after the justices deliberated during a private conference last Thursday.

“The Seminole Tribe of Florida applauds today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to decline consideration of the case involving the Tribe’s Gaming Compact with the State of Florida.  It means members of the Seminole Tribe and all Floridians can count on a bright future made possible by the Compact,” Seminole Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner told The Capitolist.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case upholds a prior decision by an appeals court that had overturned a district court’s ruling against the compact. The appeals court’s decision last September enabled the launch of online sports betting in Florida, which began in December. The gaming compact, in addition to online sports betting, also includes the addition of table games such as craps and roulette to Seminole casinos and is projected to generate $2.5 billion for Florida over the first five years.

West Flagler Associates had previously argued that the compact unfairly granted the Seminole Tribe a monopoly on sports betting, which they contended was a violation of the federal statute. Despite these arguments, the Florida Supreme Court also declined to hear the case earlier this year. West Flagler may still pursue further legal challenges, potentially focusing on issues of equal protection rather than the specific location of betting activities.

Last month, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) formally requested that the Supreme Court deny a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by West Flagler Associates.

In a filing submitted on May 13, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar argued that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act supports the compact’s approval. The DOI contended 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.”


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