Florida Supreme Court orders stop to online sports betting relaunch

The legal battle between the Seminole Tribe and two pari-mutuel companies continues to escalate as the tribe relaunches its sports-betting app in Florida. Attorneys for West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. have filed a motion at the Florida Supreme Court to halt the online wagering activities, citing concerns that the app violates a 2018 constitutional amendment requiring voter approval of casino gambling.

The companies filed a petition in September challenging a gambling deal between the state and the tribe that would allow online sports betting. The ongoing legal dispute has prompted the attorneys to seek immediate suspension of the sports betting provisions of the law, particularly as the Seminole Tribe began allowing some gamblers to place wagers on the app anywhere in Florida without prior warning.

The motion emphasized the urgency of the situation, noting that the Supreme Court may not rule on the underlying challenge to the gambling deal until next year. The attorneys expressed concerns that the tribe’s off-reservation sports betting operations could potentially yield millions of dollars in bets that may be deemed unauthorized under the Florida Constitution.

The legal wrangling began in 2021 when Governor Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. signed a compact that allowed the tribe to expand its gambling operations in exchange for substantial payments to the state. The focus of the litigation has been on the part of the deal that permits gamblers to place mobile sports wagers anywhere in the state, with bets being handled by computer servers on tribal property.

Despite a federal lawsuit and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Seminole Tribe, the legal battle persists. The tribe recently announced that it would start allowing sports betting at its casinos and articulated plans to accept online sports bets from a limited group of gamblers in Florida.

At least part of the access will be available to people who used the tribe’s previous app or have loyalty points from the tribe’s casino loyalty program. The pari-mutuel companies remain concerned about the potential financial impact of the tribe’s ability to offer online sports betting statewide.

The Supreme Court has not yet indicated whether it will take up the underlying challenge to the gambling deal. Until a resolution is reached, the legal dispute between the Seminole Tribe and the pari-mutuel companies is set to continue.