West Flagler pursues rehearing of Seminole Tribe sports betting rights

August 15, 2023
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The Tribal operator has been granted exclusive rights, but IGRA is called into question as online sports bets will still be placed off Tribal lands.

West Flager Associates has filed a rehearing petition in the Florida Federal Court system, challenging the Seminole Tribe’s new gaming compact. The company owns Bonita Springs Poker Room and Magic City Casino in Miami.

Online sports betting in Florida has effectively been on hold for years. In August 2021, the Seminole Tribe were granted exclusive rights to operate online sports betting, but the decision was appealed in November of that year due to an alleged violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

The Biden administration urged the Court of Appeals to reinstate the agreement in August 2022, and the Federal Appeals Court was asked to reverse the ruling in December 2022 as well. On June 30 this year, sports betting became legal for Tribes in Florida after a Federal Appeals Court ordered the Department of the Interior to reinstate the gaming compact signed in 2021.

However, West Flagler Associates may still request either a “Panel Rehearing” (with the same panel of three judges who made the original decision) or a “Rehearing En Banc” (with all non-senior judges in the DC Circuit). West Flagler Associates addressed the June 30th decision in its petition saying, “The opinion is erroneous and will create confusion, and thus rehearing is warranted.”

The interpretation of IGRA, which provides for Tribal gaming exclusively on Native American land, is an issue that has been highly debated due to the nature of mobile/online bets able to be placed across the state of Florida, even if the servers are located on Tribal property.

In order to receive a Rehearing En Banc, West Flagler Associates would have to persuade six of the eight remaining active judges who were part of the original panel decision to rehear the appeal. The company may also have a chance to plead the case before the US Supreme Court. 

During reviews of IGRA by courts, the Federal Government and the State of Florida, clarification that the act does not cover gaming activity outside of Indian land was reached. This has caused Tribes in Arizona, Connecticut and Michigan to agree to online sports betting licensing outside of the Tribal-state gaming compact process.

Whether or not a rehearing will be possible for the West Flagler decision, the years of uncertainty surrounding the Seminole Tribe’s rights to online sports betting will serve as an example for both Federal and Tribal lawmakers in future as the country continues to navigate launches of sports betting in other states.

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