The Seminole Tribe of Florida has announced plans to introduce sports betting, roulette and craps at all six casinos across the state in December.
This would mark the end of a tumultuous journey for the Seminoles. The tribe agreed to a new gaming contract with Florida in April 2021 signed by state Governor Ron DeSantis.
A series of legal challenges have prevented the Seminole Tribe from moving forward with its expanded gambling plans sooner. However, the tribe says recent developments clear the way for the launch.
Craps, roulette and sports betting will debut Dec. 7 at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood and Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa follows a day later.
The final two properties – Seminole Casino Immokalee and Seminole Brighton Casino – will begin operations on December 11th. The tribe will host a series of events to mark the occasion. Further details will be announced in due course.
Seminole leader hails ‘historic legal victory’
“The Seminole Tribe thanks the State of Florida, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Justice for defending our compact,” said Marcellus Osceola Jr., Chairman of the Seminole Tribe. “By working together, the tribe, state and federal government achieved a historic legal victory.”
Governor DeSantis also welcomed the plans and said the launch would help the state move forward.
“The new initiative will create jobs, increase tourism and bring billions of dollars in additional revenue to our state,” DeSantis said. “I was proud to work with the Tribe on our historic gaming agreement and I look forward to its full implementation.”
Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming, echoed comments about employment. He says the pact will result in the creation of more than 1,000 new jobs.
“This is a historic milestone that immediately puts Florida in the league with the greatest gaming destinations in the world,” Allen said.
The legal victory in question came last week. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected West Flagler’s request to remain in Florida, clearing the way for the Seminoles to take off.
West Flagler has until Dec. 11 to file a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. Certiorari is an order in which a higher court reviews a case that was originally heard in a lower court.
How did we get here?
When the gaming contract was approved over two years ago, Hard Rock Bet was planned to launch. However, this came to an abrupt end in December 2021 when the District of Columbia ruled the Seminole Tribe’s compact violate the Indian Gambling Regulation Act (IGRA).
This verdict came later West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers filed suitin which the question was whether the nationwide offering of online sports betting through servers on tribal lands constituted betting on tribal lands.
However, the DC court’s ruling was overturned by the DC District Court of Appeals in June 2023. This gave the Seminoles free rein in Florida.
This led to back and forth between West Flagler and various legal entities. In August, West Flagler requested a rehearing in the lost case against Interior Secretary Debra Haaland.
West Flagler was dealt another blow when district court judges rejected his allegations that Haaland violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing to take action on the 2021 pact approved by DeSantis and putting it into effect after 45 days.
West Flagler challenges Florida and DeSantis
To bolster his campaign, West Flagler also filed a lawsuit against DeSantis and the Florida Legislature in September. It claimed DeSantis “exceeded his authority” by approving the contract in the first place.
However, the rehearing was ultimately denied by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. However, this in turn led to West Flagler filing a motion to stay before later appealing to the Supreme Court.
The DOI objected to the motion for stay, arguing that West Flagler’s motion did not meet the conditions of certiorari. Ultimately, the D.C. Circuit Court denied the motion.
This left West Flagler in the lurch, but it was far from out. Along with Bonita-Fort Myers, West Flagler petitioned the Supreme Court to block the Seminole Tribe from adopting Hard Rock Bet.
The Supreme Court granted the operators’ request for a temporary stay. However, the final nail in his legal coffin came with last week’s ruling.