Federal judge rules against online sports betting in Florida

A federal judge ruled late Monday that a new compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe authorizing online and mobile sports betting violates the Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA).

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe agreed to a 30-year compact in the spring that permitted online and mobile sports betting in the state. The U.S. Department of Interior did not act on the compact, allowing it to go into effect in August.

Three months later, Hard Rock casino launched its mobile sportsbook app on Nov. 1. The casino was taking online bets for three weeks before Monday's ruling.

The compact's framework was designed to allow online sports betting through servers that were located on tribal lands. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, however, ruled in favor of plaintiffs West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation, which operate pari-mutuel betting in Florida, stating in her 25-page opinion that, "[It] is well-settled that IGRA authorizes sports betting only on Indian lands."

Both DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe are reviewing the ruling.

"We are reviewing the Court's perplexing ruling, which certainly contains appealable issues. Because neither the Seminole Tribe nor the State of Florida are parties to the case, it is unclear what if any immediate impact the ruling has in Florida," a spokesperson for DeSantis said in a statement to ESPN. "We look forward to working with the Tribe to ensure the future success of the Compact."

Later Tuesday, the Seminole Tribe filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

A spokesperson for the Department of Interior, in an email to ESPN on Tuesday morning, said no update on next steps was available at this time.

"The compact between the Seminoles and the State of Florida sought to give the Seminoles a monopoly on offering online sports gaming anywhere in the state, while making the same conduct a felony when conducted by anyone else," attorney Hamish Hume, a partner with Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, who represented the plaintiffs, said in a release. "That violated federal law in numerous ways, and we are very pleased with the Court's thorough and well-reasoned decision."

Legal sports betting began spreading across the nation after a 2018 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court opened a path for all states to authorize sports betting. Since the ruling, legal sportsbooks have begun operating in 29 states and the District of Columbia.