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The Department of Interior (DOI) has requested an extension in the US Supreme Court Florida sports betting case.

The DOI was originally scheduled to file its response to the two Florida parimutuel operators’ writ of certiorari on 12 April, but has now requested the deadline be extended to 12 May.

A writ of certiorari is a petition for the Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling. In this case, this is the DC Circuit’s June 2023 decision that confirmed the legality of the Seminole Tribe’s gaming compact with Florida against federal objections.

West Flagler Associates and the Bonita Fort Myers Corporation’s lawyers did not object to the extension request.

According to legal experts, the extension means that the court would not be able to decide the case on its merits until the next term at the earliest, beginning in October 2024.   

The DOI said the reason for the request is that its attorneys are busy with several other SCOTUS cases.

Seminole compact background

The case concerns whether DOI secretary Debra Haaland violated federal law when she approved the Seminole’s gaming compact.

The compact granted the tribe an effective statewide sports betting monopoly through its Hard Rock Bet brand.

This was done under a “hub-and-spoke” model, in which off-reservation bets were wired through servers on tribal land to satisfy the Indian land requirements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

The DOI approved new regulations in February that confirmed the legitimacy of “hub-and-spoke” compacts.

West Flagler argues the court should grant certiorari due to the important questions raised by the DC Circuit’s case.

Did the Seminole’s compact violate the IGRA?

Questions include whether the compact is permissible under the IGRA, whether it breaches the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, and the equal protections clause of the Fifth Amendment.

US Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh has said in the past that if the compact allows off-reservation betting, then it “would likely violate” the IGRA.

Prominent attorney Daniel Wallach recently highlighted this in an amicus brief filed in support of West Flagler.

Due to the number of petitions that are sent to the US Supreme Court, it is usually only able to review a fraction of the total.

This has led some commentators to argue it is unlikely the court will grant certiorari in this case.

After legal attempts to prevent the Hard Rock Bet launch failed in both state and federal courts, the brand’s mobile app went live to all Florida residents in December.

West Flagler’s separate challenge to the compact was recently dismissed by the Florida Supreme Court.

However, the court left the door open to the possibility of a new challenge in the Florida trial courts, which the operator could also pursue.

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