Watch CBS News

Halt sought to Seminole Tribe's online sports betting

CBS News Live
CBS News Miami Live

TALLAHASSEE - After the Seminole Tribe relaunched a sports-betting app, attorneys for two pari-mutuel companies Tuesday asked the Florida Supreme Court to halt the online wagering as a legal battle continues to play out.

The attorneys for West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. filed a motion at the Supreme Court hours after the tribe quietly began allowing some gamblers to place wagers on the sports-betting app anywhere in Florida.

The pari-mutuel companies filed a petition in September at the Supreme Court challenging part of a gambling deal between the state and the tribe that would allow online sports betting. The companies contend that the sports-betting part of the deal violates a 2018 constitutional amendment requiring voter approval of casino gambling.

With the case pending, attorneys for the pari-mutuel companies Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to "immediately suspend the sports betting provisions" of a law that carried out the gambling deal.

"This exigency has been created by the launch of the Seminole Tribe's mobile betting application on November 7, 2023, without prior warning," the attorneys wrote in a 15-page motion.

The motion said the Supreme Court likely will not rule on the underlying challenge to the gambling deal until sometime next year.

"In the meantime, absent an expedited ruling on petitioners' ... request, the tribe will apparently continue with its off-reservation sports betting operations in contravention of the Florida Constitution ... potentially raking in millions of dollars in sports bets that this court may eventually find were authorized in contravention of the Florida Constitution and derogation of the people's right to decide on the expansion of casino gambling," the companies' attorneys wrote.

The motion was the latest move in two years of legal wrangling about the gambling deal, which Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. signed in 2021. The deal, known as a compact, also allowed the Seminoles to add craps and roulette to their Florida casinos and add three casinos on tribal property in Broward County.

In exchange, the Seminoles agreed to pay the state at least $2.5 billion over the first five years and possibly billions of dollars more over the course of the pact, which was ratified by lawmakers.

The tribe in 2021 briefly launched an app to allow sports wagering throughout the state, but the app was shut down amid a federal lawsuit filed by the pari-mutuel companies. The U.S. Supreme Court last month refused to block the deal in that lawsuit, which is separate from the Florida Supreme Court case.

The focus of the litigation has been on part of the deal aimed at allowing gamblers to place mobile sports wagers anywhere in the state, with bets handled by computer servers on tribal property. The deal said bets "using a mobile app or other electronic device, shall be deemed to be exclusively conducted by the tribe."

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the tribe announced Nov. 1 that it would begin allowing sports betting at its casinos in December. But it went further Tuesday by saying it would also take online sports bets from a limited group of gamblers.

At least in part, access will be available to people who used the 2021 app or who have points from the tribe's "Unity by Hard Rock" loyalty program for casino gamblers.

"The Seminole Tribe is offering limited access to existing Florida customers to test its Hard Rock Bet platform," Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the tribe, said in an email Tuesday.

The Supreme Court has not said whether it will take up the underlying challenge to the gambling deal.

West Flagler holds three jai alai licenses, while Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. does business as Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida. They contend they could be hurt financially if the tribe is able to offer online sports betting statewide.  

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.