West Flagler and Associates (WFA), the pari-mutuel suing the US Department of the Interior over the validity of the 2021 Florida-Seminole tribe compact, filed a brief in US Supreme Court on 29 March arguing a state court opinion is in conflict with a lower federal court.

Should SCOTUS take the case – the court takes 100-150 of about 7,000 filed per year – it could change the state of wagering in Florida.

The Seminoles launched their Hard Rock Bet platform last November despite awaiting action on court cases in the Florida and US Supreme Courts. In Florida, WFA was suing Governor Ron DeSantis and the legislature saying they were out of bounds when they approved the compact. The Florida Supreme Court denied the petition on 21 March, saying that WFA chose the wrong “vehicle” to file.

Late last week, WFA filed a supplemental brief in its writ of certiorari that is pending at SCOTUS. In the filing, WFA lawyers wrote that the Florida Supreme Court denial leaned on the idea that the case stretched the “limits of a quo warranto” filing.

Attorneys also pointed out that the Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation of what the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act governs is in conflict with the June 2023 opinion from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Conflicting court opinions in Florida wagering cases

The state of wagering in Florida has been at issue since the the DOI approved the 2021 compact. In the latest SCOTUS brief, WFA attorneys referred to the Florida Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Meredith Sasso.

“Among other forms of gambling, the compact authorises mobile sports betting by which participants may place sports wagers with the Seminole tribe through a mobile device,” Sasso wrote when the Florida Supreme Court denied WFA’s petition.

“Participants may be physically located anywhere in Florida when they place a wager, not only on tribal lands. Then, regardless of where the bets are placed, the wagers are ‘deemed’ to occur on tribal lands.”

Hard Rock launches limited rollout of sports betting app in Florida—Hard Rock Bet relaunched on Tuesday after two years of being down following an original launch in 2021. Now, the question is, will it stand? TAMPA, Fla. https://t.co/yGExvMeJJW pic.twitter.com/Xj8GuMupQy

— Florida Explorers (@fltrek) November 10, 2023

That opinion, WFA attorneys wrote, is in conflict with the appellate court opinion from last summer.

DOI must file brief with SCOTUS next week

In June 2023 the appellate court overturned a lower court decision that kept the Seminoles offline, While the appellate court decision seems to make it currently legal for the Seminoles to be live, in the opinion, federal justices wrote “the compact should be ‘interpreted’ as not authorising any off-reservation gambling”.

WFA attorneys also wrote that because the Florida Supreme Court denied the petition, there is no risk that a SCOTUS opinion would be “mooted”.

The DOI has a 12 April deadline to file its response to WFA’s initial brief, at which point SCOTUS will begin to consider whether or not it will hear the case. There is no fixed timeline on when a ruling on the petition would come.

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