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A coalition of Florida anti-gambling groups have filed an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court against the Seminoles’ online sports betting compact with the state.

The ongoing fight in the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) between the Department of the Interior (DOI) and West Flagler Associates companies saw another twist this week when Florida Gambling Opponents tabled an amicus brief in support of the pari-mutual betting company.

The group consists of several well-known sports betting opponents, including anti-gambling car dealer Norman Braman and No Casinos.

This was the group responsible for the 2018 amendment to the Florida Constitution that banned any statewide expansion of “casino gambling” without voter approval in a referendum, often known as Amendment 3.  

The brief slammed the supposed “well-funded special interests that wrongly seek to override the will of Floridians and bankroll the most significant expansion of illegal gambling in Florida’s history”.

“They can only succeed if the DC Circuit’s opinion goes unchallenged, allowing the US Department of the Interior to flout its statutory duty to ensure that state-tribal compacts comply with the law. Certiorari review is necessary to prevent this mockery of federal law.

“Absent clarity from this Court, state and federal overreach will continue to run rampant in the gaming context, allowing unwanted and unlawful gambling to proliferate,” added the group.

The case background

The case concerns whether DOI had the authorisation under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to approve the Seminole Tribe’s compact with Florida.

The compact, which was approved by both the Florida governor and legislature, grants the tribe a statewide online sports betting monopoly through its Hard Rock brand.

It works under a “hub-and-spoke” model in which bets are wired through servers on tribal land to comply with the certain provisions in the IGRA.

While West Flagler proved victorious in the initial case, last summer a three-judge panel in DC Circuit ruled in the DOI’s favour on appeal.

Despite continued legal action in both state and federal court, this decision eventually allowed the tribe to launch its platform to all legal Florida residents in December.

West Flagler is currently seeking Certiorari review from the court. This is the legal term for the court opting to look into overturning the lower court’s decision.

It is unknown whether SCOTUS will opt to take up the case. The court can only take a small percentage of cases it is presented with, leading to some commentators to rule the possibility unlikely.

There is also a separate case proceeding through the Florida Supreme Court, in which West Flagler challenge governor Ron DeSantis’ authorisation to sign the compact.

Last month, the federal government doubled down on the legality “hub-and-spoke” compacts. It did so in new DOI regulations that approved the concept of Florida-style agreements.

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