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US Supreme Court Postpones Florida Online Sports Betting Debate

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The US Supreme Court has granted the Department of the Interior (DOI) a delay in filing its response in a legal battle that could significantly impact the future of online sports betting in Florida. The case pits West Flagler Associates (WFA) against the DOI, with the potential to overturn the current system established through a compact with the Seminole Tribe.

Florida Betting Debate Drags On

On Tuesday, US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar requested the extension, citing a heavy workload for the attorneys assigned to the case. The original deadline of March 13 has been pushed back to April 12, giving the DOI more time to prepare its response to WFA's arguments. The case has has already faced numerous delays.

WFA's central argument, outlined in its brief, is that Florida's current online sports betting setup is "unlawful" and shouldn't be a precedent for other states. The crux of the issue lies in a gaming monopoly granted to the Seminole Tribe by the state. In May 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis and the state legislature approved a compact that extended this monopoly to encompass online and retail sports betting.

However, the legality of the compact itself is under scrutiny. Florida voters approved Amendment 3 in 2018, mandating voter approval for any expansion of gambling in the state. It states that any change in gambling policy must be submitted to a public vote.

WFA has filed a separate lawsuit in the Florida Supreme Court challenging the compact on these grounds. The state Supreme Court has yet to decide whether to hear this case, adding another layer of uncertainty to the legal landscape.

Don't Bet On the Supreme Court

WFA petitioned the Supreme Court for review last month. Once the DOI submits its response by the new deadline, the high court will evaluate whether to take up the case. Experts familiar with the Supreme Court's processes suggest the chances are slim.

The court typically reviews only 100-150 cases out of the roughly 7,000 presented annually. A decision on whether to hear the case is likely several months away, even after the DOI's response is received.

Despite the legal uncertainty, online sports betting continues to operate in Florida under the Seminole Tribe's Hard Rock Bet platform. Residents were able to place bets on the Super Bowl for the first time last month and will have the opportunity to wager on March Madness this month.

The Hard Rock online platform launched in November 2023, followed by the opening of physical sportsbooks in December. The ongoing legal battle, however, casts a shadow over the industry's future, as a potential ruling against the compact could disrupt operations and force the Seminole Tribe to re-evaluate its position.

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