Following a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia District Monday, Hard Rock Bet could go live with its sports betting platform in Florida as soon as Sept. 19 if West Flagler and Associates, the plaintiff in the sports betting case, does not take further legal action.
The court late Monday afternoon denied West Flagler’s request for an en banc rehearing of the case. According to the appellate court rules, the decision becomes effective on the eighth day after it is handed down, which would be Sept. 19.
The Seminole Tribe, which launched its Hard Rock wagering platform for 34 days in late 2021 before shutting down due to court order, could be on the cusp of a relaunch. When asked for comment, a Seminole Tribe spokesperson told Sports Handle via email, “The Seminole Tribe of Florida is pleased with today’s denial of the request for an en banc hearing by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”
The U.S. Department of the Interior and a pair of parimutuels are battling in federal court over the legality of a compact signed between the the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe. It centers on whether the DOI rightfully approved the compact, which would give the tribe a monopoly on retail and digital sports betting in the state.
“I will be surprised if this is the last that we have seen of this case, but this avenue’s path seems to have hit a road block, if not a dead end,” gaming consultant Brendan Bussmann, a principal at Las Vegas-based B Global, told Sports Handle. “West Flagler has other options, but I do see a path forward where Hard Rock may starting taking wagers until told otherwise.”
Supreme Court could be next
Experts say it is likely that West Flagler will file the case in the U.S. Supreme Court and ask for a stay to prevent the tribe from launching. It’s possible that the Florida parimutuels could file in state court, and if so, they would likely request a stay against the Seminoles at that level as well.
West Flagler requested the rehearing on Aug. 14. Two days later, the court asked for a response from the DOI, which it provided on Aug. 31. Historically, in cases in which a rehearing was granted, the court has taken months to respond.
Monday’s response was brief: “Upon consideration of appellees’ petition for rehearing en banc, the response thereto, and the absence of a request by any member of the court for a vote, it is ordered that the petition be denied,” it read.
The ruling was posted at 3:49 p.m. ET, kicking off a weeklong window for West Flagler to respond before the Seminoles could launch their platform.
“While it certainly was faster than I expected, I said all along that the D.C. Circuit would deny WFA’s petition,” Bob Jarvis, a constitutional law professor at NOVA Southeastern who has been following the case, told Sports Handle. “There really was no merit to WFA’s request, and in any event, WFA was facing very long odds given how rarely petitions for rehearing en banc are granted.
“I certainly expect WFA to now file a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. It, too, will be denied, likely by the end of this year,” Jarvis predicted.
He went on to say that West Flagler could also file in Florida state court based on the 2018 Amendment 3, which requires that any expansion of gambling be put before voters. However, he said he would also expect that challenge to fail.
West Flagler attorney Hamish Hume did not immediately respond to phone inquiries from Sports Handle.