Possible alternative title: Seminole Tribe’s Sports Betting Launch Set for December, Mobile Sportsbooks Await Confirmation

Last updated on: November 1, 2023, 01:04h.

Floridians eager to engage in sports betting will soon have the opportunity to place legal bets at tribal casinos in the state. However, the availability of mobile sportsbooks remains uncertain at this time.

Hard Rock
The Hard Rock Casino sign at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. The Seminole Tribe announced its casinos in Florida will begin offering sports betting, craps, and roulette next month. (Image: Seminole Hard Rock Tampa/Facebook)

The Seminole Tribe recently revealed plans to introduce sports betting, craps, and roulette at its six Florida casinos beginning on December 7. These new gaming options come as part of an updated agreement with the state that has been entangled in legal disputes since it was established in 2021.

This announcement comes following a Supreme Court decision that affirmed the tribe’s right to offer these new games on its own land.

In a statement, Marcellus Osceola Jr., chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, expressed gratitude to the State of Florida, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Department of Justice for their support in defending the tribe’s gaming compact. He characterized this joint effort as a historic legal victory.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed the compact two years ago, hailed the announcement, highlighting the potential economic benefits such as job creation, increased tourism, and significant revenue for the state.

Mobile Sportsbook Status Uncertain

Although the recent announcement addressed the introduction of in-person sports betting, there was no mention of plans to launch a mobile sportsbook in Florida. As of now, the tribe has not responded to inquiries seeking clarification.

While the Supreme Court ruling brought an end to a lengthy federal lawsuit, it did not resolve the issue of whether the tribe can accept mobile sports bets from individuals located outside of tribal lands. The revised gaming compact between DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe from 2021 authorized the tribe to operate online sportsbooks accessible throughout the state, as long as the servers were located on tribal land.

The focus of the federal case was primarily on the role of the U.S. Department of the Interior in overseeing tribal gaming. The Department stated that its approval of the compact only pertained to activities taking place on tribal lands and disclaimed authority over anything beyond that scope.

State Courts’ Decision

Consequently, the decision regarding mobile sports betting in Florida rests with state courts. Opponents of the tribe’s sports betting monopoly, led by West Flagler Associates, a pari-mutuel operator, continue to challenge the legality of the operation. They argue that the Florida Constitution prohibits anyone, including the tribe, from operating an online sportsbook without first obtaining approval from the state’s voters. The opponents are currently seeking the Florida Supreme Court’s intervention to overrule the governor and state legislature.

DeSantis’ office has requested an extension to submit their response in the case, and the court has extended the deadline until December 1.

West Flagler recently submitted additional evidence for their state claim, citing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s reasoning in dismissing the federal case.

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.”

Six Casinos to Offer Craps, Roulette, and Sportsbooks

The implementation of retail sports betting will commence on December 7 at three Seminole casinos in South Florida: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood, and Seminole Casino Coconut Creek.

The following day, these new gaming options will become available at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. On December 11, they will launch at Seminole Casino Immokalee near Naples and Seminole Brighton Casino on the northwest side of Lake Okeechobee.

According to Hard Rock, these new additions are expected to generate 1,000 new jobs within the state of Florida.

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