A recent ruling in Florida could pave the way for California sports betting to launch sooner rather than later.
The DC Circuit of Appeals overturned a 2021 decision that halted sports betting Florida, giving a big victory to the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
But how does the Seminole ruling impact California sports betting? PlayCA spoke with an industry expert to find out.
UC Davis professor of law Katherine Florey has researched federal Indian law for decades. Her extensive research includes years of study on the extraterritorial application of law, theories of jurisdiction and the powers of tribal courts.
She believes the ruling leaves the door open to new possibilities for sports betting negotiations in California and other states.
“The increased flexibility the decision gives states and tribes may lead to more innovative arrangements in the future,” Florey wrote to PlayCA in an email.
Seminole ruling details
Thanks to its new gaming compact with the state in 2021, the Seminole Tribe offered online sports betting in Florida for a month. However, other gaming entities filed a lawsuit claiming the compact violated the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act, and a District Court decision shut down all legal online sports betting in Florida in August 2021.
However, that ruling has been unanimously overturned by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
The overturning of the original ruling paves the way for an explosion of online sports betting in Florida, and could lay the groundwork for other states, like California, to implement sports betting.
Due to the Seminole decision, there are questions as to whether California will pursue compacts for tribal exclusivity of online sports betting under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Florey told PlayCA it is possible.
Overall, Florey said the Seminole decision will generally be a welcomed one for tribes and states in giving both more flexibility in negotiating compacts. However, she brought up several reasons why the decision’s impact might be somewhat limited.
First, the decision clarifies it’s up to individual states to determine whether compacts like the Seminole compact in Florida are permissible.
“So this is something that California law would have to authorize,” Florey said. “Second, the decision is limited to a somewhat narrow context — whether the Secretary of Interior was correct in allowing the Seminole Tribe’s compact with Florida to go into effect. The court was careful to reserve some issues, such as whether individual bettors’ activities might violate federal law.”
Florey also added that, because the decision is by the DC Circuit, it would not be binding precedent in a challenge to a compact filed in state or federal court in California.
After Prop 27 was filed for the 2022 election cycle, a hub-and-spoke model was put forward for California. Prop 27 failed, but the Seminole decision helped re-ignite conversation about a hub-and-spoke model for California tribes.
The model would allow for California tribes with online sportsbooks to serve as a hub for other tribes offering account registration and marketing services.
So could the Seminole decision pave the way for California tribes to use a hub-and-spoke model?
“It does in the sense that it holds that negotiating such a model does not present any issues under IGRA,” Florey said, adding that the model would still have to be authorized under California law.
Impact on California voters
If the proposed model is successful, more voters could jump on board. That could be a big help after both Prop 26 and Prop 27 failed by wide margins in the last election cycle.
In the long run, Florey doesn’t think that the courts will be a major obstacle.
For now, “it’s all about convincing voters and getting something passed,” she said.