Supreme Court rejects challenge to DeSantis’ multibillion agreement for online sports betting in Florida

The Supreme Court rejected an emergency bid Wednesday to block a multibillion-dollar agreement between Florida and the Seminole Tribe to offer online sports betting throughout the state.

The court’s order means that sports betting could soon be available in Florida, although other pending legal challenges in state courts could impact the exact timing.

T he agreement, or “compact,” was championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, approved by the US Department of the Interior and is slated to bring in $2.5 billion in new revenue over the next five years and an estimated $6 billion through 2030.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote separately to say that he respected the court’s action, but questioned whether the deal could raise separate questions under state law. He made clear, however, that concerns under state law were not “squarely presented” in the current application brought by other gambling companies.

The court’s brief order could trigger other states and tribes to pursue similar deals.

Back in 2018, Florida voters approved a referendum that amended the Florida Constitution to ensure that any form of casino gambling would only be allowed in the state through a separate referendum – to take power to approve such activity away from the state legislature.

But the 2018 referendum specifically carved out gambling and other gaming negotiated through a compact between tribes and the state – so long as the compact was approved by the federal government.

In 2021, the Seminole Tribe of Florida entered into an agreement with the state under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that permitted the tribe to offer online sports betting throughout the state as long as the servers receiving the wagers were located on tribal ground.

The following month, DeSantis signed a law that approved the compact between the two parties. The Department of Interior did not block the deal, which had the same legal effect as if it formally approved it.

Other betting establishments, however, filed suit, arguing that the compact was illegal under the IGRA because that law only allowed betting on tribal lands. They filed suit against the Interior Department, arguing that the compact should not have been approved in the first place.

A district court agreed to block the compact but was reversed by a federal appeals court based in Washington, DC. The appeals court said that the secretary of Interior hadn’t overstepped her authority in allowing the agreement.

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