Florida Sports Betting Suspended Indefinitely By Hard Rock, Seminole Tribe

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Seminole Hard Rock, Hollywood, Florida (Photo by Felix Mizioznikov)

The Hard Rock Sportsbook in Florida has stopped taking mobile bets as of 11 a.m. ET today, the Seminole Tribe of Florida announced on Twitter. 

“Thank you for participating in our early access launch. Although we are temporarily suspending the acceptance of new bets and account deposits, we remain committed to building the best place for sports betting in Florida,” the sportsbook tweeted shortly before wagering ceased.

Late yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected a request from the Seminoles to continue operations while the case surrounding the legitimacy of the compact between the tribe and the state of Florida is appealed.

The tribe cited the court’s decision in its reasoning. 

Due to yesterday’s appellate court decision, the Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile app will temporarily suspend accepting new bets and deposits. Player information and account funds are safe and secure, and the app will remain online for easy withdrawals via all payment methods,” the tribe said. 

The tribe said any bets placed on events after Saturday at 11 a.m. ET will be refunded to customers.

While the Seminoles said the move was “temporary,” buried in the statement is an indication they have no idea when or if betting will resume.

“We will maintain a log of the free bets in your account, which will be available again if Hard Rock Sportsbook resumes accepting new bets,” the tribe said.

Long Road Ahead For Sports Betting In Florida

Last month, Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled in favor of two Florida-based pari-mutuel companies that sued the Department of Interior, arguing the historic compact reached between the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. 

DOI approved the compact in August. 

The Seminoles had asked the court to “stay” the ruling while the tribe appealed it. The tribe argued halting operations would cause “irreparable harm” to its economic interests.

But in a 2-1 ruling, the appellate court said the tribe had not met the difficult standard of demonstrating irreparable harm.

At a major industry conference this week, legal experts were divided on whether the sportsbook and its vendors were putting their licenses at risk if they continued to operate with legal questions pending. 

In its notice, the tribe implied it is uncertain when or if it will be allowed to resume sports betting operations. The case now awaits a hearing, as yet to be scheduled, by the full court to determine the validity of the compact.  

As things stand, Florida bettors are missing out on college football conference championship weekend, and it is unlikely operations will be up again in time for the college football bowl season, the NFL Playoffs or Super Bowl, or even March Madness.

‘Fiction’ 

The tribe and Governor Ron DeSantis unveiled the new compact earlier this year amid much fanfare. Under the terms of the deal, the tribe agreed to pay the state more than $2 billion over the next 30 years in exchange for exclusive rights to sports betting. 

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is the federal law that sets the standard for gaming activities on tribal lands.  It states all gaming must take place “on Indian lands.”

In 2018 Florida voters approved a referendum stipulating any expansion of gambling in the state that is not tribal related must be approved by voters, not by government officials.

The compact, in an effort to reconcile the regulations included in IGRA along with the results of the referendum, stipulated all sports bets would be processed through servers located on tribal property.  In other words, a bet placed on a couch in Jacksonville or Miami Beach would be legal because the server processing the mobile bet was located on Seminole lands. 

But in her ruling Nov. 22, Friedrich called this definition “fiction.”

“Although the Compact ‘deem[s]’ all sports betting to occur at the location of the Tribe’s ‘sports book[s]’ and supporting servers, this Court cannot accept that fiction. When a federal statute authorizes an activity only at specific locations, parties may not evade that limitation by ‘deeming’ their activity to occur where it, as a factual matter, does not,” she wrote.

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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