In a significant legal victory for the Seminole Tribe and Hard Rock Bet, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear West Flagler’s petition regarding Florida’s online sports betting. This decision marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing legal battles over sports betting in the state.

Last week, the Supreme Court justices met to deliberate on this matter, and their decision was announced on Monday. The ruling was not unanimous; Justice Brett Kavanaugh dissented, indicating he would have granted the petition, according to Sports Betting Dime. This ruling likely extinguishes West Flagler’s efforts to open Florida’s online sports betting market to competitors beyond the Seminole Tribe.

The 30-year gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida, which includes exclusive rights to in-person and online sports betting, as well as the provision to offer craps and roulette at tribal casinos, is central to this case. In exchange for these exclusive rights, the Seminole Tribe commits to making annual payments of at least $500 million to the state.

Seminole Tribe’s Dominance in Gaming

With the Supreme Court’s decision, the Seminole Tribe is poised to dominate Florida’s gaming sector for decades. The compact, set to last until 2051, potentially paves the way for the tribe to expand into iGaming, following the same regulatory process as online sports betting.

The Seminole Tribe welcomed the Court’s decision. Gary Bitner, a spokesperson for the tribe, commented, “The Seminole Tribe of Florida applauds today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to decline consideration of the case involving the Tribe’s Gaming Compact with the State of Florida. It means members of the Seminole Tribe and all Floridians can count on a bright future made possible by the compact.”

This outcome leaves other sports betting operators shut out of one of the nation’s largest sports betting markets. While the Seminole Tribe has previously hinted at possible revenue-sharing agreements with other operators, no specific plans have been disclosed.

Implications for Tribal Gaming Nationwide

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case may influence other states with significant tribal gaming operations to consider similar online sports betting arrangements under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) compacts. States like California, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin might explore this avenue to maintain exclusive control over online sports betting. Such a move would require state governments to amend existing gaming compacts.

For example, California tribes, who spent millions on a failed 2022 ballot initiative to legalize online sports betting, might seek to negotiate a new compact to introduce this form of gaming within the state.

A Long Legal Battle

The legal contention between West Flagler and the Department of the Interior (DOI) dates back to the 2021 approval of the gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and Florida. West Flagler filed its writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court in December, challenging the compact that permits online sports betting off tribal lands.

This followed the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to deny West Flagler’s request to review the case. The Florida Court argued that the relief sought was beyond the scope of what quo warranto could provide.

West Flagler’s case focused on the argument that the compact authorized gaming activities outside tribal lands, contrary to the provisions of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), and allegedly violated equal-protection principles by granting a monopoly to the Seminole Tribe. The DOI defended Secretary Deb Haaland’s approval of the compact, maintaining that it was consistent with IGRA regulations.

DOI counsel argued that the D.C. Circuit Court’s interpretation—that the compact only authorized online sports betting on tribal lands—was correct and aligned with IGRA. They contended that a Tribal-State compact under IGRA can include provisions for gaming activities in the state on non-tribal lands, provided they are negotiated between the tribe and the state.

As the legal dust settles, the Seminole Tribe stands to solidify its dominance in Florida’s gaming market, setting a precedent that could impact tribal gaming across the United States.