Federal Court Hearing Could Delay Sports Betting In Florida

Federal Court Hearing Could Delay Sports Betting In Florida
© USA Today

Online sports betting could be pushed back to Nov. 15 in Florida.

The DC Federal Court set a hearing and briefing schedule on a legal challenge to Florida’s sports wagering compact. The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. ET on Nov. 5.

Online sports betting was previously scheduled to launch on Oct. 15. But it is now being challenged in federal court by two commercial gaming operations in Florida who believe the new compact will harm their businesses and that it violates the law.

Now, with the hearing scheduled, the earliest online sports betting in Florida can launch will be Nov. 15, according to the Seminole Tribe.

Opposition of Online Sports Betting

The 2021 gaming compact allowed the Seminole Tribe to open a mobile sportsbook that could operate across the state. The sportsbook would utilize the tribe’s Hard Rock Digital branding and would be the first tribe to debut an online sportsbook off of tribal lands under federal law.

According to court documents that were filed opposing online sports betting, the Florida pari-mutuel operators are concerned about losing customers to the new gaming market. West Flagler Associates, which operates Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. and the Bonita Springs Poker Room, in addition to Magic City Casino, filed the suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior on Aug. 16.

"Part of Plaintiffs’ injury is based on the allegation that their existing games will lose current patrons migrating towards online sports betting,” the document stated. “It is objectively plausible that patrons who bet on pari-mutuel sports, poker, or slots will be attracted to sports betting.”

The plaintiffs also are concerned customers will no longer have to travel to the three casinos closest to them to place a sports bet. Online sports betting would take away from their business if players could place wagers from the comfort of their homes instead of traveling to a tribal casino.

“Plaintiffs have further alleged this convenience (especially in the post-COVID era) will make it less attractive for patrons to travel to Plaintiffs’ facilities in Little Havana or Bonita Springs,” the document said.

Retail Sportsbooks Scheduled for Oct. 15 Opening

It is unknown how the court hearing could impact retail sports betting. Retail sportsbooks were set to open on Oct. 15, but it remains unclear whether the outcome of the hearing will impact retail sportsbooks going forward.

The Seminole Tribe has been preparing to go live with its sportsbooks on Oct. 15. The tribe has been hiring for sportsbooks at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel Casino in Hollywood and Tampa, while the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach has been installing its own sportsbook with large flat-screen televisions and numerous projection screens. The new upgrades are going in the Paddock Restaurant, allowing fans to watch multiple games at once.

The Palm Beach Kennel Club also planned to hire 250 additional employees who will be both full-time and part-time.