Seminole Tribe Denied Emergency Stay in Florida Sports Betting Case; Hard Rock App Shut Down

Seminole Tribe Denied Emergency Stay in Florida Sports Betting Case; Hard Rock App Shut Down
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Updated on Dec. 4

An appeals court has denied the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s emergency motion for a stay to continue operating its Hard Rock Sportsbook app across the state.

The United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered that the emergency motion be denied, saying the tribe had “not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending appeal.”

Last month, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled the tribe’s online sports betting app violates federal law by allowing bettors using their smartphones to wager from anywhere in the state, rather than just on tribal land. A federal rule requires gamblers to be physically on a tribal property when wagering, the judge stated.

The tribe had appealed for a stay of the ruling, seeking to continue accepting bets on the app until its appeal of the judge’s decision has been resolved.

Daniel Wallach, an attorney who first tweeted the appellate court’s decision on Friday evening, noted in a tweet on Saturday morning that the tribe has shut down the app.

"The Seminole Tribe of Florida have voluntarily discontinued only sports betting operations following yesterday's denial of their emergency request for a stay pending approval."

Compact Gives Tribe Sports Betting Monopoly

The Seminole Hard Rock Sportsbook, the only authorized mobile betting app in the state, was launched without fanfare on Nov. 1.

The U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gaming matters, earlier this year signed off on a multibillion-dollar gambling compact between the state and Seminole Tribe. The compact gives the tribe a monopoly on handling sports betting in Florida.

Non-tribal pari-mutuels and others had filed lawsuits to stop the tribe from gaining exclusive rights to mobile sports wagering in the state. These lawsuits resulted in Judge Friedrich’s Nov. 22 ruling .

Days later, the judge rejected the tribe’s request for a stay, which would allow the app to remain in operation, at least temporarily.

The tribe argued it would lose money used for tribal programs if the sports betting app were shut down. In denying the request, the judge said the tribe had not proven a shutdown would result in financial hardship.

The next day, on Thanksgiving, the tribe’s attorneys filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. This is the court that rejected the request for a stay on Friday.

Computer Servers Located on Tribal Land

Friedrich, appointed in 2017 by President Donald Trump, said a prior Supreme Court decision authorizes tribal gaming “on Indian lands, and nowhere else.”

The judge wrote that it is “fiction” to claim that all Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile betting has occurred on tribal land just because that’s where the computer servers are located to process the bets.

The judge’s decision also blocks the tribe from adding Las Vegas-style roulette and craps at its Hard Rock casinos in Broward and Hillsborough counties.

Sports Betting Options Still Available in Florida

In a 25-page memorandum opinion, Friedrich wrote that her decision “does not foreclose other avenues” for authorizing online sports betting in Florida.

The Washington, D.C-based judge wrote that the state and tribe may agree to a new compact allowing online sports betting, but only on tribal lands.

The judge also wrote that Florida residents can still create a “citizens’ initiative” to authorize mobile sports betting across the state.

A political action committee already is seeking a constitutional amendment to legalize sports wagering across the state. The PAC has received $10 million each from publicly traded online bookmakers DraftKings and FanDuel.

The measure will be on the November 2022 ballot if enough signatures are collected and the Florida Supreme Court approves the wording.