Published: September 26, 2023

Casinos Challenge DeSantis’ $2.5 Billion Sports Betting Deal

  • Suit alleges mobile gaming is illegal “off reservation” bet
  • At stake: who brings sports bets to football-crazed state

The future of mobile sports betting in America’s third-largest state is on the line after Florida casinos challenged a $2.5 billion dollar deal Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) struck with a Native American tribe.

DeSantis and the state Legislature violated the state constitution by adopting a 2021 pact allowing the Seminole Tribe of Florida to hold “off-reservation” betting through a mobile sports-betting book and app, brick-and-mortar casinos alleged in a petition filed in the Florida Supreme Court Monday. The casinos claim the state constitution would have to be changed to allow expanded tribal gaming beyond tribal lands.

“The Governor and Legislature have attempted to avoid the Florida Constitution’s mandate by having the 2021 Compact and the Implementing Law ‘deem’ online bets placed anywhere in the state to have occurred ‘exclusively’ on tribal lands where the bets are received—a transparent artifice,” the complaint said.

The petition is the latest chapter in the legal saga that will steer sports betting in a state with three National Football League teams and a rabid college sports following. The casinos lost a federal Administrative Procedure Act challenge before a three-judge federal appeals court panel this June. In that decision, the panel explicitly said it wasn’t ruling on whether the pact violated the Florida Constitution, and said that and other state law questions were “outside the scope of our judicial review, and as a prudential matter are best left for Florida’s courts to decide.”

The casinos pointed to that loss, urging the state justices to clarify the law, saying “the appellate court’s reasoning makes clear the need for this Court’s review.”

The case is West Flagler Assoc., Ltd. v. DeSantis, Fla., No. SC2023-1333, petition filed 9/25/23.

© Public Gaming Research Institute. All rights reserved.