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DeSantis team requests to dismiss petition against betting in Florida

| By Richard Mulligan
Florida governor Ron DeSantis’ office has formally requested the state's Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit challenging sports betting in the state ahead of its scheduled expansion this week.
Seminole Tribe mobile sports betting

Attorney-general Ashley Moody claimed the petition brought by pari-mutuel betting operator West Flagler Associates is “unjustifiable”. The submission defended the state’s gambling compact between the Florida authorities and the Seminole tribe, which was signed in 2021.

Last month, the Seminole tribe, which has the exclusive right to offer gambling in Florida, re-launched its Hard Rock Bet service in the state.

Among the reasons Moody puts forward for the dismissal is the more than two years West Flagler took to submit its petition, following the signing of the gambling compact. Moody also argues that West Flagler’s petition for writ of quo warranto fails to meet legal standards.

Finally, Moody argues the petition is incorrect to claim sports betting is “casino gambling” as defined in the Florida constitution.

“For all these reasons, the petition should be dismissed or denied,” Moody writes in his submission to the Florida Supreme Court.

West Flagler fails to stop Florida betting

West Flagler has already seen petitions fail in the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida and the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Last month, the Florida Supreme Court rejected West Flagler’s motion to suspend Hard Rock Bet and its online sports betting offering until a final ruling is handed down.

The service will be expanded to sports betting, roulette and craps at all six of its casinos across the state this week. A star-studded party will mark the launch at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, with guests including Jon Bon Jovi, Mike Tyson and Sofia Vergara.

“The Seminole tribe of Florida is proud to point to a new era in Florida gaming with the unveiling of our new casino games,” said Seminole chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. “With the addition of craps, roulette and sports betting, we now offer a full complement of casino games and we join the ranks of leading casinos around the world.”

Florida stand-off: how did we get here?

The attorney-general’s submission marks the latest development in a case that has been rumbling on for two years.

Hard Rock Bet launched in 2021 after DeSantis signed off on a gaming compact. This allowed the tribe to offer sports betting exclusively in Florida.

However, this was abruptly halted in December 2021 when the District of Columbia ruled the compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers had questioned whether offering sports betting through tribal-based servers was the same as betting on tribal land.

Skipping to August this year, West Flagler began to ramp up its legal challenges. First, it filed a rehearing petition for the case it lost against secretary of the interior Debra Haaland in June.

West Flagler in September then filed a legal challenge against DeSantis and the Florida state legislature. This challenged whether DeSantis and the legislature exceeded their respective authorities with the 2021 gaming compact approval.

However, doubt was cast over West Flagler’s efforts when  the US Supreme Court rejected West Flagler’s motion to stay in October.

This did not quite pave the way for the Seminoles to launch sports wagering unchallenged. However, it gave the tribe a window to launch in, with Hard Rock Bet going live a matter of weeks later.

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