When is Mobile Sports Betting Coming to Florida? West Flagler Just Filed Suit With Supreme Court

Written by:
Gilbert Horowitz
Published on:

For those waiting to start betting with the Seminole Hard Rock mobile sportsbook in the Sunshine State, we wouldn't recommend holding your breath.


West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Meyers Corporation have filed a constitutional challenge with the Florida Supreme Court over the online sports betting provisions in the approved 2021 gaming compact.

The suit was filed in the final minutes of Monday September 25 and lists Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis as the other party in the petition.

West Flagler, which runs the Magic City Casino in Miami, is also petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the matter as it could have implications for other state tribal compacts.

A three-judge appeals court panel's June 30 ruling reversed a November 2021 decision by a federal judge who halted a 30-year gambling agreement signed by Gov. DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr.

One of the more interesting aspects of the appeals court decision is that it ignores USA vs. Jay Cohen, which ruled the one-time co-founder of World Sports Exchange had violated federal sports betting law.  Cohen argued that bets originating from the U.S. occurred on a server in Antigua where sports gambling is legal.  The judge in that 2000 case ruled the bets were placed and accepted on U.S. soil.  The Seminoles now argue that any mobile wagers placed within Florida actually do occur on their reservation server.

West Flagler believes Florida sports betting must be approved by voters.  Indeed Florida voters approved an amendment in 2018, which ensures that voters have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize any expansion of gambling in the Sunshine State.  To some extent betting on sports in person at the Seminoles casino properties could be deemed as an expansion of gambling in that sports wagering is not yet autorized or available.  One would most certainly classify mobile or remote sports wagering as an expansion of gambling. 

Raquel A. Rodriguez of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC is the counsel representing West Flagler.  Ms. Rodriguez is a heavy hitter in the state, having served as general counsel to Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Here is an excerpt from the petition:

“Under the Florida Constitution, the people must approve any new casino gambling in the state through the citizens’ initiative process — the off-reservation sports betting provisions of the 2021 compact and the off-reservation portions of the implementing law violate Article X, Section 30 of the Florida Constitution. Neither the governor nor the legislature can expand gambling in Florida in derogation of the people’s constitutional final say."

Florida's Gaming Commission last week sent a cease and desist order out to Daily Fantasy Sports websites PrizePicks, Fantasy Underdog and Betr demanding they refrain from operating in the state.  At least one gaming attorney, Daniel Wallach, this matter too could become mired in the legal system.

"The choice in Florida is a binary one: Cease-and-desist OR seek declaratory relief from a state or federal court. The FGCC’s correspondence to the fantasy operators does not appear to leave room for anything in between."

- Gilbert Horowitz, Gambling911.com

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