Battle to Stop Sports Betting Monopoly in Florida Heats Up With Latest Filing

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:

Gaming attorney Daniel Wallach addressed this week's petition by West Flagler to prevent a sports betting monopoly in the state of Florida.  West Flagler is the parent company of Magic Casino in Miami.  The Seminoles entered into a compact with the state that would make them exclusive overseers of all things sports gambling. 

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Some Background

In November 2021, federal district court judge Dabney Friedrich invalidating the compact between the Seminoles and state to give them the exclusive rights over sports betting, both retail and mobile.  

That judge held that the compact violated the Indiana Gaming Regulatory Act ("IGRA") because it had authorized gaming activities which original from outside Indian lands.  While the Seminoles insisted that all mobile wagering would take place on its servers on its tribal lands, a 2000 federal ruling (USA vs. Jay Cohen) found where the online bet is placed is where it is accepted, not the server in Antigua as contended by Cohen.  This case has not been cited by any of the key players here to the best of our knowledge.

Furthermore, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved the Voter Control of Gambling Amendment in 2018, which gives them the power to approve any form of gambling expansion.  Sports betting would be new to the state.

Now fast forward to June 30 of this year.  A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and held that the compact did not violate IGRA. The panel stated that they “see the case differently,” acknowledging that while an IGRA gaming compact “can legally authorize a tribe to conduct gaming on its own lands,” nothing in IGRA prohibits a compact from “discussing” other activities, including those taking place outside of Indian lands.

West Flagler Moves

A challenge to the reversal, filed by West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., specifically alleges the deal runs afoul of a 2018 constitutional amendment requiring voter approval of expansions of casino-style gambling. West Flagler holds three jai alai licenses, while Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. does business as Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida.

"It has a guaranteed point-of-entry in state court, but with a weaker legal claim and a DeSantis-stacked bench (he appointed 5 of the 7 justices)," Wallach said via his Twitter feed, referring to the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

The odds of success for West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp are long, Wallach believes.

"During his 5 years in office, the Florida Supreme Court has NEVER issued a writ of quo warranto (the remedy sought by West Flagler in the sports betting case) against Governor DeSantis. Of the 14 petitions decided, 7 were denied and 7 were transferred to the circuit courts.

"Why so many transfers? 2 reasons often cited -- the petition raises 'substantial issues of fact' or presents 'individualized' issues that do not require immediate resolution by the Florida Supreme Court. The West Flagler petition does not appear to fall into either category."

The Next Step

"The next step is for the Florida Supreme Court to issue an order directing Governor DeSantis to file a response to West Flagler’s petition. In most cases, the FSC will issue such an order within a few days after the filing of the petition."

Wallach is an excellent source for all things Florida sports gambling.  We would encourage Gambling911 readers to follow him on Twitter here.

Wallach is also monitoring and offering his input on the state gaming regulators filing a cease and desist order against three Daily Fantasy Sports companies in recent days.

- Chris Costigan, Publisher

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