The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) recently denied West Flagler Associates’ request to stay a lower court ruling, favorable to the Department of the Interior and the Seminole Tribe and which allows the latter to relaunch sports betting in Florida.
However, the legal battle is still not over, and it is unknown whether the tribe will go ahead and resume its operations as the Seminoles have not made any announcements yet, following the SCOTUS decision from last Wednesday.
Seminoles Win Federal Battle
The latest legal battle between West Flagler Associates (WFA), the Department of the Interior, the state of Florida, and the Seminole Tribe saw the U.S. Supreme Court deny WFA’s request to stay a lower-court ruling until the SCOTUS could determine whether to hear its case.
“The denial of the stay by the U.S. Supreme Court is very good news,” a Seminole spokesman wrote via email to news outlets. “The Seminole Tribe of Florida is heartened by this decision.”
Because the stay was not granted, it is more likely than not that the U.S. Supreme Court will not hear WFA’s case and the federal appeal route will be exhausted. But West Flager has taken a two-pronged legal attack and will wage their battle exclusively in state court, assuming the SCOTUS does not hear their case.
Back to State Level
Florida lawyer Darren Heitner of Heitner Legal noted, “By not issuing a stay, SCOTUS has signaled that it is unlikely to take the case and/or reverse the underlying decision.”
Nova Southeastern University constitutional law professor Bob Jarvis said, “As I have been saying for some time, it’s all over but the shouting on the federal level. The action now is at the state level, where the Florida Supreme Court will have to decide if it wants the case or wants to send it down to the Leon County Circuit Court. Either way, we won’t see sports betting in Florida for some time yet, but it will come eventually.”
West Flagler Could Have Better Outcome in State Court
Although WFA experienced a setback at the federal level, the ruling issued by Justice Brett Kavanaugh could give the parimutuel company a bit of legal meat on the bone for its attorneys to gnaw at the state level.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a statement that he agrees with the denial “in light of the D.C. Circuit’s pronouncement that the compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe authorizes the Tribe to conduct only on-reservation gaming operations, and not off-reservation gaming operations.”
However, when taking into consideration the compact, Kavanaugh wrote, “If the compact authorized the Tribe to conduct off-reservation gaming operations, either directly or by deeming off-reservation gaming operations to somehow be on-reservation, then the compact would likely violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, as the District Court explained.”
No Jurisdiction There
The feds do not have jurisdiction on state compacts which is why the legal ball is in the state court. West Flagler is attempting to get the Florida State Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the Seminole Tribe being granted a monopoly on sports betting in the Sunshine State.
Although the servers that process the bets are on tribal land, the bets emanate from all over the state and not just on tribal grounds. That is the primary issue that WFA has with the Seminoles being awarded the sole license to accept sports bets in Florida.
West Flagler’s legal Hail Mary to the SCOTUS is not officially over but all signs point to the esteemed body refusing to hear WFA’s petition. However, the Florida Supreme Court is still a possibility for the company to make one last gasp at getting in on Florida’s sports betting business.