A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the the District of Columbia on Friday released its decision in the Florida sports betting case pitting two parimutuels against the U.S. Department of the Interior, saying that the Seminole Tribe should be able to offer legal digital wagering in the state. Legal experts previously told Sports Handle that whatever the decision by the court, it would likely be appealed to the Supreme Court.
The case is being watched closely by tribes across the country, as a decision that would allow the Seminoles a monopoly would change the situation for tribes in every state.
“The Seminole Tribe of Florida is pleased with today’s unanimous decision,” the tribe said in a statement sent to Sports Handle. “It is a positive outcome for the Seminole tribe and the people of Florida, and for all Indian Country. The tribe is fully reviewing the decision to determine next steps.”
The decision is the latest twist in a situation that started in May 2021, when the Florida state legislature approved a compact with the Seminoles that would allow the tribe to offer digital sports betting throughout Florida as long as every bet flows through a server on Seminole land. The parimutuels argued that the compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which governs only gambling that happens on tribal lands. Written in the 1980s, IGRA does not appear to address digital wagering.
Please be advised that we have no further information at this time. In the meantime, please follow @HardRockSB and @HardRockDigital on Twitter, as well as www. https://t.co/XjhmZXMRC0 for updates on our progress to bring safe and trusted sports betting back to Florida.
— Hard Rock Sportsbook Help (@HardRockSBHelp) June 30, 2023
How we got here
After the legislature approved the compact, it was sent to the DOI for approval, but rather than sign off on it, Secretary Deb Haaland allowed the compact to become “deemed approved” after a 45-day waiting period. Multiple lawsuits were then filed, but the Seminoles launched their Hard Rock Digital platform ahead of a decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in November 2021. It was available for 34 days before two courts demanded it be taken down.
While West Flagler Associates will likely appeal, the immediate question is whether or not the Seminoles will try to relaunch the platform.
At the district court level, judge Dabney Freidrich ruled the compact was illegal, and the DOI appealed to the appeals court. The appeals court heard oral arguments last December, and has been considering the case since.
Breaking news. Florida #sportsbetting alert! Today, the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of the Seminole Tribe completely reversing the District Court. This is a huge victory for Hard Rock and the first to favorably resolve a post-PASPA challenge under IGRA. More analysis to come!
— Jeff Ifrah (@jifrah) June 30, 2023
This is a breaking story and will be updated.