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US Supreme Court denies West Flagler’s motion to stay

| By Marese O'Hagan
The US Supreme Court has denied West Flagler Associates' motion for a stay, giving hope to Florida's Seminole tribe for a sports betting relaunch in the Sunshine State.
Florida West Flagler

Chief Justice John Roberts denied the motion to stay yesterday (25 October), which was described by the official Supreme Court blog as an “emergency application for stay”.

Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, said in a statement that he agreed with the court’s decision.

“I agree that the stay application should be denied in light of the DC Circuit’s pronouncement that the compact between Florida and the Seminole tribe authorises the tribe to conduct only on-reservation gaming operations and not off-reservation gaming operations,” he said.

“If the compact authorised the tribe to conduct off-reservation gaming operations, either directly or by deeming off-reservation gaming operations to somehow be on-reservation, then the compact would likely violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, as the District Court explained.”

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.

What does this mean for the Seminole tribe?

The denial that the Seminoles may be permitted to launch sports betting through Hard Rock Bet in the future. This was initially permitted in April 2021, when state governor Ron DeSantis approved a gaming compact that allowed the tribe to offer sports betting in Florida exclusively.

But the roll-out of Hard Rock Bet screeched to a halt in December 2021, after the District of Colombia ruled that the Seminole tribe’s compact infringed upon the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). This conclusion was reached due to a suit filed by West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers which challenged whether offering online sports betting statewide through servers on tribal land counts as betting on tribal land.

But the District of Colombia’s court ruling was reversed in June 2023 by the DC District Court of Appeals, giving the Seminoles free reign in Florida again.

The story so far

This sparked 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 in June against Debra Haaland, the secretary of the interior. The Circuit Court judges rejected West Flagler’s allegation that Haaland had 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 also filed a challenge against DeSantis and the Florida legislature in September, claiming that DeSantis had “exceeded his authority” by approving the compact in the first place.

However, the pari-mutuel betting operators’ rehearing was ultimately denied by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. This led to West Flagler filing a motion to stay, ahead of its appeal to the Supreme Court.

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

But this didn’t phase West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers. Earlier this month, the operators requested the Supreme Court to block the Seminole tribe from rolling out Hard Rock Bet. This was then followed by the Supreme Court granting the operators’ request for a temporary stay.

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