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By Sarah May on
 October 26, 2023

Seminole Tribe lauds SCOTUS decision lifting stay in sports betting case

The U.S. Supreme Court this week issued a pivotal decision in a case that could help Florida's Seminole Tribe expand its gaming enterprises to include online betting, as Politico reports.

As the outlet noted, Wednesday's outcome came on the heels of an administrative stay that was issued earlier this month by Chief Justice John Roberts pending a review by the full panel of a request for a long-term stay brought by attorneys working on behalf of casino operators in the Sunshine State.

At issue was a deal entered into back in 2021 between the tribe and the state of Florida which would permit the former to offer online wagering options to its gaming customers, as CBS News explained.

That agreement was subsequently challenged in court by pari-mutel operators in the state, who took issue with the notion that gamblers would be able to place wagers through the tribal casinos from anywhere in the Florida via mobile app, and in one such case, a decision by the Interior Department allowing the deal to proceed was upheld by a federal appeals court.

It was then that the pari-mutuel companies sought a stay from the Supreme Court so they would have sufficient time to file a petition for full review.

Though Roberts issued such a temporary stay on Oct. 12, on Wednesday, the hold was just lifted, and a longer-term stay was denied.

No explanation of the decision was provided, though, as Politico noted, a statement was issued by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who posed concerns about possible equal protection concerns raised by the 2021 gaming legislation that was supported by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The DeSantis-backed deal green-lit the Tribe's entry into the realm of sports betting, the construction of new facilities at its Hollywood reservation, and also the addition of roulette and craps to its existing casinos.

Referencing the fact that the pari-mutels have also initiated litigation in Florida state court, Kavanaugh noted that “the state law's constitutionality is not squarely presented in this application, and the Florida Supreme Court is any event currently considering state-law issues related to the Tribe's potential off-reservation gaming operations,” which he intimated could potentially constitute a violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Not surprisingly, the Seminole Tribe expressed its satisfaction with the high court's decision to lift the stay and scuttle a longer-term hold on the lower court's order.

“The denial of the stay by the U.S. Supreme Court is very good news. The Seminole Tribe of Florida is heartened by this decision,” said tribal spokesperson Gary Bitner.

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, on behalf of the Interior Department, argued in opposition to the stay that the SCOTUS justices are unlikely to ultimately grant a full hearing on the lower court's ruling, a sentiment with which Nova Southeastern University law professor Bob Jarvis agreed, according to CBS News.

Underscoring the absence of conflicting appellate precedent touching on the controversy and the Supreme Court's historic interest in Native American legal matters, Jarvis concurred that further review of the matter by the justices was unlikely, opining that “this case comes out the right way, because it finds that the tribe can do what it wants to do.”

However, all is not entirely settled in terms of the Seminole Tribe's expanded gaming offerings, as the Florida Supreme Court has yet to decide its willingness to take the state case, and final resolution at that level could, as Jarvis noted, take several years.

Written By:
Sarah May

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