DOI Requests Extension in SCOTUS Florida Sports Betting Case

The Department of Interior (DOI) has requested an extension in the ongoing Florida sports betting case before the US Supreme Court. Originally scheduled to file its response to the writ of certiorari submitted by two Florida parimutuel operators on 12 April, the DOI is now seeking an extension until 12 May due to the temporary unavailability of its attorneys.

The Legal Maneuvering Drags On

The legal dispute revolves around whether the Secretary of the DOI, Deb Haaland, had the authority to approve the 2021 gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe, which has caused years of legal disputes. The compact allows bets placed anywhere in Florida to be considered on tribal lands if they flow through a tribal server. 

Another aspect of the case questions the compact’s legality under Amendment 3, passed by Florida voters in 2018, mandating that any gambling expansion requires a referendum. West Flagler and Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation aim to challenge the Seminole tribe’s monopoly in the state, arguing that it was anticonstitutional.

A writ of certiorari is a petition for the Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling. In this case, it pertains to the DC Circuit’s June 2023 decision affirming the legality of the gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and Florida despite federal objections. However, the acceptance of any case by the Supreme Court remains uncertain, as it only intervenes in exceptional circumstances.

The Dispute May Be Nearing Its Conclusion

The request for an extension comes as the DOI’s attorneys are preoccupied with several other cases before the Supreme Court. The extension also means that the court will likely not decide on the case’s merits until the next term, beginning in October 2024. This delay will mark more than three years since the beginning of the legal battle.

The attorneys with principal responsibility for final preparation of the government’s response have been heavily engaged with the press of other matters before the Court.

DOI request

While Florida’s Supreme Court declined to hear a related case by West Flanger last month, stakeholders speculate on the possibility of the US Supreme Court intervening, given the dispute’s broader implications for tribal sovereignty. While by no means a certainty, such a decision could extend the ongoing legal action well into 2025.

The next step in the Florida sports betting case involves the DOI filing its response. The two operators involved in the case did not object to the government’s extension request, so the court’s decision on whether to hear the case will likely happen in October. Meanwhile, the Seminole tribe will continue running its sports wagering operations.