Seminole Tribe faces push to halt online sports betting operations

Attorneys for two pari-mutuel companies have filed a motion with the Florida Supreme Court asking to halt the recently relaunched sports-betting app by the Seminole Tribe. According to the attorneys, the online wagering should be suspended as a legal battle plays out.

The motion was filed just hours after the tribe began allowing some gamblers to place wagers on the sports-betting app throughout Florida. The two companies, West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., had previously filed a petition in September challenging part of a gambling deal between the state and the tribe. They argue that the sports-betting provision of the deal violates a 2018 constitutional amendment requiring voter approval of casino gambling.

With the case still pending, the companies’ attorneys have requested the Supreme Court to immediately suspend the sports-betting provisions of the law that was carried out as part of the gambling deal. They expressed concern that the tribe will continue with its off-reservation sports betting operations, potentially earning millions of dollars in sports bets that may eventually be found to be unauthorized.

The legal battle has been ongoing for two years, stemming from a gambling deal signed in 2021 between Governor Ron DeSantis, and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. The deal allowed the Seminoles to expand their Florida casinos and add more properties in Broward County in exchange for substantial payments to the state.

The focus of the litigation has been on the part of the deal that permits gamblers to place mobile sports wagers anywhere in the state, with bets handled by computer servers on tribal property. The tribe announced its plan to begin allowing sports betting at its casinos in December and went further by allowing limited online sports betting on November 7, 2023.

The Supreme Court has not indicated whether they will take up the underlying challenge to the gambling deal. The two pari-mutuel companies involved in the legal battle argue that they could suffer financially if the tribe is allowed to offer online sports betting statewide.