Updated: Jul 21
It’s 2022, nearly 4 years since the Supreme Court struck down PASPA, yet there are many states still depriving their citizens of the opportunity to legally place bets on sports. Maybe most notable of these states is Florida, who’s recent relationship with sports betting has been as dramatic as you will find in state-level policy making. State legislators approved a bill in May 2021 and a mobile betting app was launched on November 1st. On November 22nd, a federal court vacated the agreement, and by December 4th the app was taken down. So what happened, and what’s next for Florida?
The Bill that Passed
In April, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which was eventually approved by the state legislature in May. The effect of the compact was to expand the Seminole Tribe’s current gaming rights to include sports betting. Most importantly was the compact granted rights for mobile sports betting exclusively to the Seminole Tribe. In November, the Seminole Tribe launched their mobile betting app in accordance with the compact.
Why it was Struck Down
The legality of the compact focuses on one question: where is your bet placed? The Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA), is a federal law passed in 1988 for the purpose of regulating gambling managed by tribes. The IGRA only allows for betting “on Indian lands.” The very nature of mobile sports betting is that it would be able to occur anywhere within the state, not just “on Indian lands.”
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia did not accept the Seminole Tribe’s argument that a mobile bet was placed where the servers were located. Instead, the court agreed with challengers to the compact, stating that the IGRA specifically states that betting can only occur “on Indian lands,” and simply deeming that betting occurred on Indian lands when it occurred elsewhere does not make it so. For that reason, the court vacated the compact in its entirety, leaving Florida with no avenue for legal sports betting of any kind at this time, mobile or otherwise.
No one will ever mistake the litigation process as an expeditious one. Appeals have been filed by both the Seminole Tribe and the U.S. Department of the Interior (who is arguing that the IGRA gives the Department authority to authorize the Florida compact). The legal battles over this case are far from over, and will continue to be fought for at least the next several months, if not longer.
Since the compact gave gambling rights exclusively to the Seminole Tribe, companies like FanDuel and DraftKings were left completely out to dry with no presence in the state. In the aftermath of the Federal court ruling and the Seminole Tribe pulling their app, these betting companies began pushing for a sports betting initiative to be added to the 2022 ballot. Needing 892,000 Floridian signatures to make this happen, DraftKings began offering free bets to customers if they were able to get the signatures necessary, and Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy released a video urging his followers to sign up. Despite these measures, the companies were unable to secure the necessary signatures, announcing on January 31st that they were giving up their effort (which was more “we didn’t lose, we quit” than anything).
With the ballot initiative push failing, the citizens of Florida are left with no recourse for (legal) sports betting at the current time. Another ballot initiative wouldn’t be able to come until the 2024 ballot, and wouldn’t go into effect until 2025. The only hope for a resolution in the near future would be for the Court of Appeals to overturn the District Court’s decision. However, even if that happened, it would not be an immediate solution. If the District Court’s ruling is upheld, Florida lawmakers would have to start from scratch, working on a new legislation that would either comport with the IGRA, or that does not grant exclusive rights to the Seminole Tribe. In any scenario, the current outlook for legalized mobile sports betting in Florida is bleak, and likely not to happen within the calendar year. This will be a long process, and Floridians have no options but to sit, wait, and hope.
Jarred Stindt is a litigation attorney in Kansas City, Missouri. He received his J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law, and has an M.A. in Political Science from Kansas State University. Jarred can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jarredstindt.