Florida’s Gambling Battle Heading into 2023

Florida’s Gambling Battle Heading into 2023

The status of sports betting in Florida remains in limbo. After a brief rollout in late 2021, the sports gambling market was quickly shut down by a federal judge following a legal battle where the opposition argued that the initial sports betting agreement violated the Florida constitution.  

More specifically, rival casinos and gambling institutions did not like the monopoly that was handed to the Seminole Tribe and their Hard Rock Casino upon the initial launch of sports betting in The Sunshine State.

With an intense legal battle still ongoing, bettors are wondering whether or not the state will legalize sports betting in 2023.

Murky Sports Betting Situation in Florida

The original plan was for mobile sports betting to operate through computer servers on tribal grounds. This was going smoothly until a judge took everything offline in December of 2021. So, there is some good news in the sense that there is a platform and infrastructure in place for online sports betting.

Why was legal Florida sports betting shut down in 2021? There was an opposition group that was against the Seminole Tribe sports betting plan.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has close to a monopoly on gambling in Florida. They are almost there, as the Seminoled-owned Hard Rock Casino brand continues to expand and become more powerful in the state.

Seminole Tribe Sports Betting Monopoly

The intention of the Seminole Tribe was to have a clear monopoly on sports betting in Florida. They were able to get Governor Ron DeSantis on board with the idea. DeSantis signed a compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state government.

With DeSantis putting a rubber stamp on the deal, everything looked done and over for legal sports betting in Florida. Florida was going to have sports betting exclusively through the Seminole Tribe and the Hard Rock sports betting Florida app.

Opponents Say Not So Fast…

Despite the government signing off on handing the sports betting keys off to the Seminoles in the state, the battle was just getting started. The fight for sports betting in Florida is set to hit a new gear in 2023.

When news arrived that the Seminole Tribe was going to have exclusive rights for sports betting, their competitors sprung into action. In a ruling by the appellate court in Florida in late 2021, they sided with the plaintiffs and against the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state.

The plaintiffs bringing the case to the courts included the Magic City Casino in Miami and Bonita Springs Poker Room. Note that the defendants, in this case, were not the state or the tribe. The suit was made against the Department of Interior.

This is important because the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state of Florida were unable to appeal the ruling. The Department of Interior is the only body that was able to file for an appeal, which they did, and is currently being looked at.

Seminole Tribe Sports Betting in Violation of Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA)

The court ruled that the sports betting deal was in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That squashed a deal that was worth $2.5 billion over five years to the state. Along with sports betting blocked, casinos were not allowed to introduce craps and roulette table games.

The plaintiffs are arguing that the state can’t legalize sports betting activity without it taking place on tribal grounds. Florida and the Seminole Tribe believe that the internet servers being on tribal grounds get around this provision.

There was a renewed push by FanDuel and DraftKings to attract signatures for a new vote on the ballot this past November. However, that fell short in early 2022, so sports bettors are still waiting in limbo as 2023 arrived.

Federal Government Supporting DeSantis and Seminole Tribe

The battle for sports betting in Florida in 2023 may include the federal government. Governor DeSantis may not agree with Joe Biden on much, but they are on the same page when it comes to passing a sports betting bill in Florida.

The federal government is pushing for legal sports betting in Florida this year. In a statement, federal lawyers from the federal government asked an appeals court in mid-December of 2022 to restore sports betting.

Florida Sports Betting Currently In The U.S. Court of Appeals

The U.S. Court of Appeals — which is comprised of a three-judge panel — is currently listening to arguments from the Department of Interior, the State of Florida, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

West Flagler Associates — the owners of Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room — is back in court to try to successfully argue that the compact is in violation of the IGRA.

According to Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald, Rachel Herron, an attorney for the Department of Interior, is arguing to the U.S. Court of Appeals that there was an error in the interpretation of the law by the appellate court.

That is essentially the argument in any appeals case. The Court of Appeals is not for arguing about the merits of the case. It is primarily used for finding errors that the district judge may have made.

Representation for West Flager Associates in the U.S. Court of Appeals noted that the agreement between the Seminole Tribe and state can be legalized if gambling activities are only on tribe-owned lands.

They also stated that the federal government is attempting to have it both ways by suggesting the ruling from the lowers courts should be thrown out. In other words, the federal government had in their briefs that IRGA cannot approve gambling off of Indian lands.

Will the Court of Appeals Overturn Federal Judge’s Ruling?

It is all going to come down to the battle in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Things are heating up between West Flagler Associates against the state and Seminole Tribe. It feels like with each passing day, the relationship continues to become worse.

What it comes down to for West Flagler Associates is that they wish to participate in the legal sports betting industry, as well. Allowing the $2.5 billion compact to go through would prohibit them from booking sports betting odds. Everyone wants a piece of the sports betting pie at the table.

If the Court of Appeals finds that the lower courts were correct and no errors were made, then we are back at the beginning. The state and Seminole Tribe must concede. The $2.5 billion deal will be history.

Florida sports bettors should not fret, at least if they have patience. This would only mean a new Florida sports betting initiative has to be drawn up. The state will draft another bill, this time likely having to other sports betting operators.

There is good and bad news to report. We like to talk in a language that includes the odds of events happening. This case in the U.S. Court of Appeals faces an uphill battle to being overturned if you look at the odds of having success in appealing a case.

Most cases fail on appeal to the courts. It is often very difficult to prove that there was an error made in the appellate court. There usually has to be something so erroneous that it can’t be ignored by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

However, there is a reason for sports bettors to be optimistic, though. Two members of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled on the side of gaming tribes in other cases.

It is also worth mentioning that two of the three judges are appointees of Obama and Biden. 2022 appointee, J. Michelle Childs, could have the swing vote and is likely to side with the federal government’s recommendations. This is not a guarantee, but a reason to be hopeful.

What Should Floridians Do In The Meantime?

Although the Sunshine State doesn’t have legalized sports gambling located within its physical borders, there are still opportunities for Floridians to gamble and wager on sports.

These opportunities come in the form of Florida online gambling casinos and they allow users to not only bet on sports, but to also play other state banned table games like craps and roulette online.

With that in mind, there’s no better opportunity for Florida gamblers than Bovada. This world class sportsbook and casino is unparalleled when it comes to the volume of sports and different types of wagers offered. But, that’s not all.

Bovada features the following incredible attributes:

  • Competitive betting lines
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  • Top notch customer service
  • Over 300 real money slots and table games
  • Live Dealer games

First time users will receive amazing Welcome bonuses for the sportsbook and casino. These bonuses can be obtained just by making a first-time deposit. The online casino also has numerous promotions for regular users including bonuses on reloads and crypto deposits.

About the Author
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Kyle Eve
Sports/Casino Writer
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Kyle Eve is a seasoned pro of The Sports Geek. Since joining the team in 2012, Kyle, has covered some of the biggest sporting events in the world. From the Super Bowl and World Series to March Madness, the NBA Finals, Kentucky Derby, and many more, Kyle has provided reliable analysis for millions of readers. After dedicating himself to hockey and football in high school, Kyle placed his first sports bet on his 18th birthday. Since then, he has spent his entire adult life devoting himself to becoming the best sports bettor and casino gambler possible. Kyle is from Windsor, ON, Canada

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