Online sports betting has returned to Florida sooner than expected. The Seminole Tribe this week quietly relaunched its Hard Rock Bets mobile platform in the Sunshine State, a month before in-person betting is set to commence at tribal casinos around the state.
A sports bettor downloads the Hard Rock Sportsbook app following Florida’s April 2021 agreement to allow the Seminole Tribe to operate online sports betting. The tribe quietly relaunched the app this week for the first time in two years. (Image: WFTV)
Access to the online sportsbook is limited to existing customers who signed up for an account when Hard Rock Bets first launched two years ago, as well as casino patrons who participate in the Unity by Hard Rock loyalty program.
The platform was online for a few weeks in 2021, and anyone who signed up then can place bets now. Wagering is also available for anyone who was in the casino loyalty program before Monday, Nov. 6.
New customers can sign up for a waitlist, but it is unclear when they can begin placing bets.
Court Challenge Continues
The mobile launch comes amid ongoing litigation by opponents of the Seminole Tribe’s monopoly on sports betting, led by pari-mutuel operator West Flagler Associates. It indicates the tribe’s optimism that the gaming compact it signed with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will ultimately survive.
After losing an appeal in federal court this fall, West Flagler filed a new challenge in the state supreme court, alleging that the gaming compact violates the Florida constitution. The briefing continues in that case with a reply due from DeSantis next month. It is unclear how long that case will take to resolve.
At the heart of West Flagler’s argument is that the tribe cannot accept sports bets placed off of its reservation without violating the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act as well as state gaming laws. Supporters of the compact say that the mobile sportsbook is legal because it is being run through computer servers located on tribal land.
A key turning point in the federal case came last month when the U.S. Supreme Court let the gaming compact take effect, but opponents can still appeal that decision.
The federal case was narrowly focused on the role of the Interior Department, which oversees tribal gaming. Interior said its authorization extended only so far as gaming that happened on tribal lands themselves and that any off-reservation gaming would be subject to state authority.
In-Person Betting Set for Next Month
The launch of the Hard Rock Bets platform means existing mobile customers get to place wagers a month before sports betting is available to everyone at the six brick-and-mortar casinos the tribe operates in Florida.
Sports bets will be able to be placed in person beginning Dec. 7 at three Seminole casinos in South Florida and continue to be rolled out at other locations over subsequent days.
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