U.S. Supreme Court orders Florida sports betting case to go forward

In Tallahassee, Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court approved a $2.5 billion gambling agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe. Chief Justice John Roberts, who is in charge of emergency requests for the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., had temporarily stayed the case earlier. At the same time, the full court considered a request for a longer pause from attorneys representing Florida casino operators.

On Wednesday, the court released a two-page decision saying the request for a stay was denied. It also overturned the administrative detention imposed by Roberts. In doing so, Judge Brett Kavanaugh expressed concern about potential equal protection issues raised by the governor. The Ron Desantis Gambling Act of 2021 is at issue.

This recent ruling will unlikely end the legal dispute between two Florida casinos. The critical question, however, is whether it will prompt the Seminole Tribe to resume sports betting in Florida after a nearly two-year hiatus.

Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the tribe, commented, “The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to extend the case is very positive news. The Seminole Tribe of Florida is encouraged by this decision.”

Florida Governor Ron Desantis played a crucial role in shaping the May 2021 gambling agreement. This agreement legalized sports betting and granted the tribe permission to include craps and roulette in their casinos. Users were allowed to visit land-based bookmakers and DownloadMegapari, Parimatch, and 1xBet to bet online.

In addition, the Seminoles received approval to build new casinos on the Hollywood Reservation, where the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is already located. After the agreement was approved, the Seminole Tribe wasted no time launching a mobile sports betting app.

The agreement has been the subject of much litigation and raises new questions. For example, about the tribe’s ability to offer statewide betting, not just on reservations, thanks to the app.

The lawsuit, filed against the Department of the Interior for failing to block the agreement, went through two levels of federal courts and drew conflicting opinions from judges. After a district judge ruled against the agreement, a panel of federal appeals court judges reversed that decision, saying any dispute over the agreement between Florida and the tribe should be heard in state court.

Kavanaugh supported lifting the stay on the appeals court ruling but also raised concerns about potential violations of the gaming regulation law. Gambling transactions outside of tribal lands are at issue. He also questioned whether the state’s actions could have resulted in an equal protection violation. He indicated that the Florida Supreme Court is already considering state law issues related to the tribe’s possible off-reservation gambling operations.

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