The United States Supreme Court has approved a $2.5 billion gaming settlement between Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who supervises emergency petitions from the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ordered an administrative stay in the case earlier this month while the entire court examined a long-term stay requested by attorneys for Florida casino owners.
The court indicated in a two-page judgment announced on Wednesday that it had dismissed the stay motion and revoked the administrative hold imposed by Roberts. However, the judgment includes a remark from Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who questioned if the gambling legislation proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021 “raises serious equal protection issues.”
This recent ruling is unlikely to end the legal dispute, as the two Florida casinos opposing the gaming agreement have stated that they intended to file a full-fledged appeal with the Supreme Court. A lawsuit is also being heard by the state Supreme Court.
The issue is whether the Seminole Tribe will resume sports betting in Florida after a nearly two-year hiatus as a result of this recent verdict.
“The denial of the stay by the U.S. Supreme Court is very good news,” said Gary Bitner, a Tribal spokesperson. “The Seminole Tribe of Florida is heartened by this decision.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis worked with legislative leaders including then-Senate President Wilton Simpson to craft the gaming agreement that was adopted by the GOP-led Legislature in May 2021.
It legalized sports betting and allowed the Tribe to add craps and roulette to its existing casinos as well as establish new casinos on the Tribe’s Hollywood territory, which currently houses the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The Seminoles began providing sports betting through a mobile app shortly after the agreement was approved.
However, the compact, as it is sometimes called, has been the subject of a slew of legal challenges, with some centering on the Tribe’s ability to provide betting throughout the state, rather than only on reservations, as a result of the app.
The action, which was launched against the Department of Interior because that agency did not oppose the agreement, has worked its way through two layers of federal courts, eliciting differing opinions from the justices involved.
After a district judge invalidated the agreement, a panel of federal appeals court justices reversed the order, ruling that any issue between Florida and the Tribe should be resolved in state court.
Kavanaugh stated in his remarks that he favored lifting the stay on the appeals court ruling. However, he stated that if the gaming agreement enabled betting off tribal territory, it was most certainly a violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Kavanaugh then asked if there had been an equal protection violation as a result of the state’s conduct.
“But the state law’s constitutionality is not squarely presented in this application, and the Florida Supreme Court is in any event currently considering state-law issues related to the Tribe’s potential off-reservation gaming operations,” he said.