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Seminole Tribe plans Florida sports betting relaunch in December

| By Robert Fletcher
The Seminole Tribe of Florida has set out plans to launch sports betting, roulette and craps at all six of its casinos across the state in December.

This would signal the end of a turbulent journey for the Seminoles. The tribe agreed a new gaming compact with Florida in April 2021, with this signed off by state governor Ron DeSantis.

A series of legal challenges have prevented the Seminole Tribe from pushing forward with its expanded gambling plans earlier. However, the tribe says recent developments clear the way for it to launch.

Craps, roulette and sports betting will launch on 7 December at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood and Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa will follow a day later.

The final two properties – Seminole Casino Immokalee and Seminole Brighton Casino – will go live on 11 December. The tribe will host a series of events to mark the occasion, with further details being announced in due course.

“The Seminole Tribe thanks the state of Florida, the US Department of the Interior and the US Department of Justice for defending our compact,” Seminole Tribe chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr said. “By working together, the tribe, state and the federal government achieved a historic legal victory.”

Governor DeSantis also welcomed the plans, saying the launch will support the state moving forward.

“The new initiative will create jobs, increase tourism and provide billions in added revenue for our state,” DeSantis said. “I was proud to work with the tribe on our historic gaming compact and I look forward to its full implementation.”

Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen echoed the comments on employment. He says that the compact will lead to the creation of more than 1,000 new jobs.

“This is a historic milestone that immediately puts Florida in the same league with the world’s great gaming destinations,” Allen said.

The legal victory being referred to came last week. The US Supreme Court denied West Flagler’s motion to stay in Florida, effectively clearing the way for the Seminoles to launch.

West Flagler has until 11 December to file a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. Certiorari is an order where a higher court reviews a case initially tried in a lower court.

How did we get here?

When the gaming compact was approved over two years ago, plans were set out to launch Hard Rock Bet. However, this screeched to a halt in December 2021 when the District of Colombia ruled the Seminole Tribe’s compact infringed upon the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). 

This ruling came after a suit was filed by West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers, which challenged whether offering online sports betting state-wide through servers on tribal land, counted as betting on tribal land.

However, the DC court ruling was reversed in June 2023 by the DC District Court of Appeals. This once again gave the Seminoles free reign in Florida again.

This led to a back-and forth fight between West Flagler and various legal entities. In August, West Flagler filed for a rehearing in the case it lost against Debra Haaland, secretary of the interior. 

West Flagler was dealt a further blow when Circuit Court judges rejected its allegations that Haaland violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by not taking action on the 2021 compact approved by DeSantis, and allowing it to pass into law after 45 days.

West Flagler challenges Florida and DeSantis

Strengthening its campaign, West Flagler also filed a challenge against DeSantis and the Florida legislature in September. In this, it alleged DeSantis “exceeded his authority” by approving the compact in the first place.

However, the rehearing was ultimately denied by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. But this in turn led to West Flagler filing a motion to stay, ahead of its later appeal to the Supreme Court.

The DOI raised a challenge against the motion to stay, arguing West Flagler’s motion did not meet the conditions of certiorari. Ultimately, the DC Circuit Court denied the motion.

This left West Flagler down but very much not out. Along with Bonita-Fort Myers, West Flagler requested the Supreme Court block the Seminole Tribe from rolling out Hard Rock Bet. 

The Supreme Court granted the operators’ request for a temporary stay. However, what seems like the final nail in its legal coffin came with last week’s ruling. 

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