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West Flagler files motion to suspend Hard Rock Bet in Florida

| By Robert Fletcher
Pari-mutuel betting operator West Flagler Associates has filed a motion in Florida's Supreme Court to suspend Hard Rock Bet and its online sports betting offering in the state.
Evolution class action

Hard Rock Bet, which is operated by the Seminole tribe, launched in Florida yesterday (7 November). Early access is available to players who bet previously with the operator and members of Hard Rock’s loyalty scheme.

However, the launch has been met with a legal challenge by West Flagler. A motion filed with the Florida Supreme Court requests it to expedite the exercise of its all writs jurisdiction to immediately suspend online sports betting.

West Flagler says the suspension should last until a final ruling on its petition for writ of quo warranto.

West Flagler: suspension the “only remedy”

“This launch was not previously announced and came as a surprise,” West Flager said. “On 1 November, the tribe announced that commencing 7 December it was commencing the games authorised by the 2021 compact at its tribal casinos. 

“Nowhere did the tribe mention off-reservation mobile betting. Widespread understanding was that the references to sports betting were in-person sports betting. This is not the subject of the instant petition.

“Taking advantage of the distraction created by their carefully crafted announcement on 1 November, the tribe has sought to surprise the petitioners and this court by presenting a ‘fait accompli’ on 7 November. It has indeed taken live bets as of today (7 November).”

West Flagler went on to say the only “remedy” is to immediately suspend the off-reservation sports betting provisions.

At the time of writing, Hard Rock Bet is still taking bets in Florida.

Florida sports betting debate set to rumble on

Yesterday’s launch came just a week after the tribe announced its sports betting relaunch in Florida. On 7 December, craps, roulette and sports betting will launch at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood and Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. Other properties will follow in the days after.

However, the launch was never likely to end an argument that has been going on for some time. The legal challenge of the launch of Hard Rock Bet in Florida marks the latest chapter in the ongoing saga.

Hard Rock Bet was live in Florida in 2021 after the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, approved a gaming compact. This allowed the Seminoles to offer sports betting exclusively in the state.

However, this came to a halt in December of the same year when the District of Columbia ruled the compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). This decision came after a suit filed by West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers questioned whether offering sports betting through tribal-based servers was the same as betting on tribal land.

Ongoing challenges

Fast-forward to August of this year and West Flagler ramped up its legal challenges. The operator filed a rehearing petition for the case it lost against secretary of the interior Debra Haaland in June.

In September, West Flagler filed a legal challenge against DeSantis and the Florida state legislature. This challenged whether DeSantis and the legislature had exceeded their respective authorities regarding the 2021 gaming compact approval.

However, the Seminoles were given hope in after the US Supreme Court rejected pari-mutuel betting operator West Flagler Associates’ 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.

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