Aug 29, 2023 - Sports

Lawsuit against sports betting in Florida escalates

Illustration of someone holding playing cards with different sports balls on them instead of suits.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A lawsuit challenging sports betting in Florida might not be resolved by the start of the NFL season, further delaying the two-year wait for football fans hoping to wager in the state.

Why it matters: The lawsuit seeks to overturn a multibillion-dollar gaming compact that legalized sports betting in Florida by granting the Seminole Tribe of Florida exclusive control over statewide in-person and online sports betting.

Catch up fast: After the compact was signed in 2021, the Seminole Tribe briefly launched its Hard Rock sportsbook for about a month before a federal court decision forced it to suspend operations.

  • The plaintiff in the case, casino operator West Flagler Associates, argues that the compact violates federal gaming laws because mobile sports bets could take place outside of tribal lands.
  • A federal district court judge struck down the compact, but a three-judge panel in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals then reversed the decision.
  • Earlier this month, the casino operators filed a petition for a rehearing before the appellate court. The Seminole Tribe has until Aug. 31 to respond to the rehearing petition.

What's next: A ruling by Sept. 7, the start of the NFL season, is "all but out of question," Nova Southeastern University law professor Bob Jarvis tells Axios.

  • Jarvis says he would expect the earliest ruling to come by Sept. 30, the deadline for the plaintiffs to ask the Supreme Court to review the case.
  • For now, the Seminole Tribe cannot relaunch its sports betting operation because the rehearing petition "effectively puts a freeze on things," Jarvis says.
  • A petition to the Supreme Court would further delay the launch, he adds.

Between the lines: The Seminole Tribe can technically choose to relaunch before the Appeals Court ruling, but that would risk upsetting judges and alienating customers if the sportsbook is again forced to shut down, gambling law expert Daniel Wallach tells Axios.

  • "The reason they're waiting is likely to await the outcome of the D.C. Circuit's action on the petition for rehearing," he says. "If that's denied, that might be the trigger."

Yes, but: In-person betting seems to be on more stable ground.

  • If West Flagler were to eventually win its case, the Appeals Court or Supreme Court could decide to carve out online betting and leave in-person betting as part of the compact, Wallach says.
  • If the entire compact is tossed out, Jarvis says he would expect the state and tribe to redo the compact to only allow in-person gaming.
Data: FanDuel; Chart: Axios Visuals

Sports betting in Florida might be in a holding pattern, but there are still odds for our hometown teams:

🏈 Dolphins: Miami (+300) is projected to finish third in the AFC East behind the Bills (+125) and the Jets (+250), per BetMGM. That means if a person bets $100 and the Dolphins win the division, they would win $300.

⚾️ Marlins: Miami is fighting for a National League wild card spot. As of Aug. 14, Fox Sports gave them +124 odds to make the playoffs.

⚽️ Inter Miami: Lionel Messi and company (+700) have some of the best odds to win the MLS Cup, per DraftKings — but simply making the playoffs will be a tall order.

🏀 Heat: After making the NBA Finals last year, the Heat have the ninth best odds (+1800) to win the championship next season, per Caesars Sportsbook. (A trade for star guard Damian Lillard could change that).

🥅 Florida Panthers: The Panthers have the ninth best odds (+1600) to win the 2024 Stanley Cup after making it to the Final last season, according to DraftKings.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to note Bob Jarvis is a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, not Florida Atlantic University.

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